Friday, February 15, 2008

Pigs In Space

What's up with space news? It seems like every week there's a different story in the news about some incredible thing that just might happen in space at some future date. And then you never hear about it again.

Wasn't something just about to crash into Mars? And which asteroid is about to destroy all life as we know it this month?

Don't get me wrong, I love space. You wanna blow your own mind, forget weed, go out and look up at the stars for a couple hours. As a bonus, remember that that was TV to your ancestors. Why do you think the constellations are so fucked up?

Now the internet is TV. An it keeps telling me that crazy stuff is going on in the skies. But I haven't seen anything "newsworthy" up there since that comet in, like, '96 or whenever.

But now they're saying a satellite broke and is headed our way. Next month, it should come barreling out of the sky and into one--or many--of our front yards. Fun fact: toxic materials on board!

So what is the government doing about it? Well, when a cowboy's the president, the answer is always "shoot first and think about what to do second second."

That's right, Dutch, we're takin' 'er down.

So let me get this straight: Once the thing hits the atmosphere, it gets all unruly and breaks apart. But if we hit it with a missile, the debris will come down "as quickly as possible." So we want to die sooner, then? Is that an Onion article?

And what happens if the missile misses? I don't mean with the satellite--the article answers that question: they don't know. I mean with the missile. Does it just hit space and start orbiting the planet? Until it comes down again, at which point we need to shoot it down?

And what if some other country's missile defense system sees a U.S. missile shooting up into the sky and overrides human instruction and launches some missiles our way? (Can any country even do that anymore? Don't ask me, I'm just a child of the '80s.)

Next thing you know, they'll say it was a typo, and the satellite will actually be coming down in 3008.

How about a nice game of chess?

Maybe I shoulda said shrooms instead of weed. I don't know crap about drugs.
Satellites pretty much vaporize when they re-enter the atmosphere so any of the toxic stuff on it would be spread so thin in the upper atmosphere that it wouldn't matter.

And the reason you hit is with a missile is so that you can (a) break it into small pieces that are guaranteed to evaporate (rather than one large mass, that might partially survive re-entry and hit the ground); and (b) control when it re-enters the atmosphere so as to maximize the chance that it will come down over the ocean. Breaking a large object into small bits assures that those pieces will burn up as they fall through the atmosphere.

Also, Bush has nothing to do with decisions like this, aero-space people make these recommendations. And if the missile misses they just detonate it up there (probably). It would be over the ocean anyway.

The thing is that a satellite like this will eventually feel atmospheric drag and start to fall to earth, but we would have no control over when that happens, so it could maybe, maybe, drop over a populated area if we did nothing at all. This is not a major risk, but there is even less risk if they break it up. Plus, its pretty bad ass.

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