Friday, September 23

Satellite Smashes into the Earth. Maybe

I’ve packed water, flares and a tent. I’m just not sure where to go? There is a NASA satellite hurtling through space towards the planet Earth and no one seems particularly concerned but me. The satellite is bigger than a killer whale (but smaller than a humpback whale so somewhere in between the size of a killer and humpback whale). The target landing zone for the satellite is between 57 degrees north latitude and 57 degrees south latitude all the way around the globe. I checked more than once and the landing site is unnecessarily large for a whale-sized satellite. The latitudinal range includes many oceans, South America, North America, Europe and all of the destinations in Asia that I like to visit. Where will I go? More importantly, has anyone told the rest of the world that they reside in the target landing zone?
The satellite, known as the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), was launched by the Space Shuttle Discovery to measure the effects of human and natural compounds in the ozone layer. Needless to say, NASA has conclusive evidence that humans are messing up their own atmosphere.
The satellite is expected to smash into the earth’s atmosphere on Friday the 20th. The math is tricky and there is a wide margin of error for the smash date. It the satellite doesn’t hit Friday, it might come on Sunday, or possibly Saturday or maybe even Tuesday the 27th but it will definitely get here before Halloween.
Although NASA is vague on the time, date and destination of the satellite, there is certainty that during re-entry the satellite will break up into exactly 26 separate pieces. The largest piece will be about the size of an adult dolphin.
I researched NASA’s website and selected the ‘NASA in Your Life’ heading under ‘News Topics’ and information regarding the impending collision is suspiciously absent.
I’ve seen this movie before. Initially NASA tries to cover up the details and downplay the severity of the event. Then someone like Jodie Foster blows the whistle and reveals critical details about the satellite and its trajectory. As the object gets closer to earth, the US government and NASA officials become increasingly desperate to find a solution. Finally, unlikely heroes step up to the plate. After his insightful advice during the BP oil disaster Kevin Costner will be a shoe-in to plan the rescue mission. Sigourney Weaver, with her experience in deep space will be a frontrunner to run the mission and the poor cosmonaut who was stuck on Mir should probably go as well. If only Jodie Foster would surface the critical details, then we would know where the satellite is going to land and I could plan my trip.
The satellite was designed to operate for three years but reminiscent of the MIR Space Station, the satellite has been in orbit since 1991. Amazingly, six of its ten original instruments still function. I’m hopeful that one of the remaining functional instruments is a guidance system. Then the mission master (Kevin Costner) could access the guidance system and steer the satellite to land in the ocean, or perhaps on Muammar Gaddafi’s compound.
As a precaution, over the next week, should you see something that looks like a dolphin falling from the sky, take cover.

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