Pacific Spirit Marine Institute
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
On Monday I found a little story tucked away at cnn.com. I was initially insulted that the government felt I was on a ‘need to know basis’ when it comes to things blasting through the Earths atmosphere and possibly landing on my head.
As the story went on Monday, “Appropriate government agencies are monitoring the situation”. With more than 17,000 man made objects having fallen into the Earth’s atmosphere in the past 50 or so years, I am happy to know the ‘appropriate government agencies are monitoring’ something.
Seldom however does an object the size of a small bus come crashing to Earth. That is the reported size of this spy satellite. Apparently someone in the ‘know’ felt the rest of us should ‘know’ about the pending re-entry of this object and leaked the story.
This plummeting object the size of small bus could weigh as much as 10,000 pounds and it could contain hazardous materials. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m pretty sure someone knows there are or there are not hazardous materials on board this spy satellite and I’m certain they know exactly how much the thing weighs. Whether or not they know how much it will weigh after it re-enters the atmosphere and whether any hazardous materials would survive re-entry may be another story, but I think they should say. Pretending they don’t know is an least an insult to the public and at most tremendously incompetent.
Compared to the 78-ton Skylab that fell to Earth in 1979 this satellite is small. I remember when Skylab was falling. I didn’t panic. Where would I have gone when I didn’t know where to go? Lucky for all of us Skylab showered debris across a sparsely populated area of Australia and the Indian Ocean.
Fast forward from Monday to Wednesday. Now we know there is a likelihood this falling satellite will come to rest somewhere in North America. One Air Force General, Gene Renuart says, “As it looks like it might re-enter into the North American area,” the U.S. military along with Homeland Security and FEMA will have to deal with the impact or assist Canadian or Mexican authorities.
I know I’ll rest easier knowing FEMA will be on hand to help deal with the aftermath should there be a disaster following this satellite’s impact.
Heaping on the insult, Renuart said military agencies are doing an analysis to determine which pieces most likely would survive re-entry. Call me crazy, but shouldn’t analysis be done to determine which pieces most likely to survive re-entry have been done before they shot this thing into space? I’m pretty sure what goes up does come down eventually.
This satellite failed shortly after launch and there are a variety of theories floating about as to the reason why. But, more to the point, this thing was declared a total loss about a year ago. I guess that isn’t enough time to do a meaningful analysis.
The tone of Renuart seems to be one of more concern over what sensitive technologies falling into enemy hands rather than the safety of the ‘citizens of Earth’.
Initial estimates were that the satellite would take years to re-enter the atmosphere…so much for estimates.
The bad news is, it will be difficult to predict where the satellite will fall until it reaches about 59 miles above the Earth. The worst news is at that point it will reach the ground in about 30 minutes.
Go figure…and watch the sky over north America late this month or in early March.
Photo Thanks: NASA
An Earth observing satellite Not the spy satellite mentioned above.
Labels: Re-entry, Satellite falling, U.S. Spy Satellite
© 2009, Pacific Spirit Marine Institute.
U.S. Spy Satellite: Coming To A Neighborhood Near You!