Friday, February 15, 2008

The Sky is Falling

(Public Enemy No. 1)
Several weeks ago we were treated to news that a derelict U.S. spy satellite, floundering aimlessly in a decaying orbit, would soon burn up in an impressive but ultimately harmless fireball as it re-entered our atmosphere. Now, one Iranian missle launch later, the U.S. has decided that this satellite is a threat and should be terminated with extreme prejudice.

I am not an engineer, nor do I comprehend the complexities and toxicity of hypergolic fuels such as hydrozine (ahem.), however, this turn of events is highly suspect. I find it more than a mere coincidence that NASA Administrator Micheal Griffin has gone from indifferent to alarmed, and enlisted the help of the military to remove this toxic fireball forged in the fires of Mt. Doom.

Iran already has one satellite in orbit, and plans more following its successful test in February 2008, but it appears President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proclamation that "We need to have an active and influential presence in space" will be contested by the Pentagon and Bush Administration. Iran may be capable of placing satellites in orbit, but the U.S. military will be damned if it will allow such assets to remain there. Happy hunting.

1 comment:

Montey Bukler said...

Excellent point...and actually somewhat tactful for the US. By ostensibly protecting the public from unintelligible potential dangers, the US is also demonstrating its ability to blow up a satellite with a missile. Intended audiences? You're probably right about Iran, but let's not forget China...and pretty much anyone else who might potentially rival the US for supremacy in space.

It'll be interesting to (a) compare the technology needed to knock out a satellite with the technology needed to knock out a ballistic missile and (b) see how good much debris results from the satellite's termination.

An additional concern: We can assume that the U.S. satellite was fairly well built, but if other countries are trying to put their own satellites in space, and these satellites can contain all sorts of crazy-ass chemicals, and their technology is sub-par to the US, does this mean the earth's orbit will become increasingly littered with shoddily-constructed, toxic-laden jallopies, capable of malfunctioning and plummiting towards earth at any moment?

That's just what I need. Cosmic Ford Pintos, coasting haphazardly through outer space stuffed to the aluminum gills with radioactive goo.

Still, who knows if the US is exagerating the threat for the sake of tactical showmanship. Given the way most people will happily choke down a slushie at 7-11 or god knows what other kind of frozen hyper-chemical enriched concoction kids are into these days (damn them and their rock and roll music), I don't know how worried we really need to be about toxic ice cream.