Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Sky Is Falling

Stop me if you heard this one before: a rogue satellite is about to fall to Earth. It contains poisonous material. If it hits the continental US, a major disaster will occur (zoom on worried face of president).

"Space Cowboys" you say? or maybe "Armageddon"? Regardless, that script has been done a hundred times before - borrrrriiing.

Well, what if I told you this is reality? That right now, over your head hangs a spy satellite (designated US 193 - oh boy, how many of those are out there?) that fell out of orbit and is about to hit Earth's atmosphere?

And the poisonous material part? Sadly, that's true too, although you'll have to ask the US government what exactly they put into orbit that's that dangerous (they claim it's the fuel).

But have no fear, US Navy is here. This week, they've announced they'll shoot the satellite down with a special missile, that will carry extra fuel and a special program (hope their programmers and debuggers don't work for RIM, whose Blackberry network went down last week AGAIN because of software issues AGAIN).

Now it turns out that the entire operation (scientists, programmers, missile, material, 3 ships in the middle of the ocean) will cost $60 million. Probably more than it cost to put the satellite up.

The Navy would have shot it down already, but they're waiting for the space shuttle to return to Earth and a "go ahead" from the crew of the space station (which they got today).
All this foot-dragging just shows you how accurate they believe their missile to be.

So, if next week in the middle of watching a sports game on TV, the screen goes blank, or if your GPS loses contact, it may well be that the US Navy has successfully shot down the wrong satellite smile.

And if a strange metal piece lands in your backyard, keep away - that's usually how the aliens begin their attack in the movies smile.

To get a quick summary of this whole debacle, with pictures, videos etc., try this CNN article.

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