An old decommissioned NASA satellite crashed to earth over the weekend and and officials say that some parts were scattered across the U.S. It was the largest piece of space junk to fall in the past 30 years, and I’d like to think of it as some of our tax dollars returning to this planet.
Link to story.
NASA officials monitored the dead, 6.5-ton spacecraft closely to estimate when the debris would will fall. While it is still too early to tell where the majority of the satellite hit, NASA believes that some parts might have landed in Oregon.
While hurtling satellite preparedness may not sound like a realistic form of emergency management or preparation, it is still interesting to think about the vulnerability of the modern home, vehicle and workplace to solids falling from the sky–be it a meteorite, large hail, blue ice from an airplane or even space junk.
And there actually has been a legitimate case of space junk hitting a person.
The one and only recorded incident of a person being hit by human-made space debris was in the U.S. in 1997. An Oklahoma woman named Lottie Williams was hit in the shoulder by a 4-inch by 5-inch piece of blackened, woven metallic material that was later confirmed to be part of the fuel tank of a Delta II rocket which had launched a U.S. Air Force satellite in 1996. Thankfully, Ms. Williams was not injured.
So does this mean that I am going to walk around wearing a helmet and shoulder pads now? No, not so much. Does it mean I am going to add this as one more excuse to get the wife to let me buy an energy-efficient and aesthetically pleasing underground house? Absolutely. It’s a proven scientific fact that space junk has never killed anybody in an underground house.
Never mind that most space debris has burned up in the atmosphere over the past 50 years.
For example, on July 11, 1979, Skylab re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrated, raining debris harmlessly along a path extending over the southern Indian Ocean and remote, unpopulated areas of Western Australia.
On January 12, 2001, a Star 48 Payload Assist Module (PAM-D) rocket upper stage re-entered the atmosphere after a “catastrophic orbital decay”. The PAM-D stage crashed in the sparsely populated Saudi Arabian desert.
And on March 27, 2007, wreckage from a Russian spy satellite fell uncomfortably close to a LAN Airlines Airbus A340, which was travelling over the Pacific Ocean between Santiago, Chile, and Auckland, New Zealand, carrying 270 passengers. The pilot estimated the satellite was within a few miles of the aircraft, and he reported hearing the sonic boom as the debris passed.
So let us know in the comments if you saw anything interesting in the sky over the weekend, and if you do, enjoy the $750 million fireworks show.