No. I didn't spell the title of the series wrong.
Planetes isn't a series of which many people have heard. It received the prestegious Seiun award for the manga in 2002 and for the anime in 2005 (the famous series Cowboy Bebop won this award in 2000). Even among rabid anime fans, it's gone largely under the radar. I suspect this is because it doesn't fit the norm of being ridiculously over the top; There's no giant mecha, no magic powers, no crazy transformations, no ninjas.... oh wait. There's ninjas. But not in the normal anime way....
Instead Planetes is a very subdued series that focuses more on character development and complex yet subtly highlighted issues rather than the in your face action. The series takes place in the near future when space debris has reached a level so critical that it's requiring international clean up efforts. The main characters in this series are debris haulers in charge of this zero-G cleanup.
For an anime series, the science is unexpectedly good. There's frequent talk of transfer orbits, Van-Allen Belts, relative motions, dangers of radiation sickness, muscle degeneration in weightless environments, and other things that, in most series, I'd expect to be filled with techno-babble. But in this series, it's apparent the writers did their research and yet, it's not even boisterous about it. Whereas many series that have to do similar research for accuracy will take the time to show it off (usually by having awkward lines of someone having to explain the concept to someone that should already understand it), Planetes drops it in seamlessly, merging into an unusually harmonious background.
As I mentioned, the series manages to touch on many very human themes throughout the 26 episode run. It tackles the place of humanity in the universe, class divisions, terrorism, the difference between ambition and greed, and isolation.
It's one of the best series I've watched in a long while. If you're into anime and haven't seen it, I'd recommend picking it up when you have the chance.