Space Junk
In a Salvage Yard, Far, Far Away

"Space junk" is the term for man-made technologies that get blasted into the outer limits but don't return to Earth. There are about 20,000 pieces of this junk, from cast-off spacecraft parts to communications satellites, orbiting around the Earth, and the clutter is making future space exploration more dangerous and collisions between castoff parts more common. NASA is continuing studies into how best to blast away the space junk with lasers -- picture a giant and real game of Space Invaders -- but there isn't an intergalactic salvage market, yet [source: Grossman].

Whether you're looking to lift your ride or lift off into space, there's a salvage yard in North Hollywood, Calif., where you can find parts for doing both. Used NASA rockets and components land at Norton Sales Inc., and among its aisles of space gadgetry you'll also find "old school hydraulics" and other car parts. Some enthusiasts even adapt hydraulics designed for space flight to custom cars. Others find props and air cannons for movies and stunts.

Anyone from novices to rocket engineers can buy a piece of space history, and if you're looking to launch a private commercial venture for sending people to space, buying used can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars. As of this writing, Norton had NASA X-15, liquid propellant and liquid rocket engines for sale, as well as assorted thrusters, transducers and turbine assemblies. It's no wonder that Norton Sales was dubbed "one giant heap for mankind" by the Los Angeles Times [source: Johnson].