Watch out for falling objects

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 1, 2008

The universe in general has always amazed me. The thought of the trillions of bright blinking lights in the night sky are an infinite number of galaxies and planets that will probably never be touched by a human being.

The last thing on my mind while star-gazing is the possibility that one of those twinkling lights might just be a 7,000 pound satellite hurdling towards Earth.

Sometime this month a U.S. spy satellite will do just that and ultimately crash into our planet. How, where and when is a big ole puzzle to the United States Government just like…well anything else such as the Iraq War, health care, how the levees broke and, of course, which cave Osama is hiding in.

But rest assured as they have the “relevant agencies working on” the out of control emissary.

Then there’s the fact that the satellite is “deaf.” Yes, apparently even an inanimate objected can be diagnosed as hearing impaired.

Of course, the use of this term means all those agencies have lost communication with and control of the satellite and therefore it’s just a falling mess.

Besides the hazardous chemicals on board the satellite, there is also cause for concern of breach of intelligence.

So, if you’re in panicked frenzy and having mental flashes of Wild E. Coyote and a satellite mushing him into the ground…just take a deep breath.

According to an article from “Time,” the satellite will rush the Earth’s atmosphere at more than 17,000 mph, but there is no need to worry. Not that I’m expecting everyone to take comfort in “Time” telling them all is well, but in the spirit of quashing mass hysteria it makes for a good read.

It seems many factors play into protecting the Earth from an array of dangers that come from space.

Think of space as Las Vegas…no, not all that happens in space stays in space, but rather there is a betting on odds.

While for sure the satellite will probably hit Earth, how much of it and where it will hit is the real gamble.

Most debris from space burns up in the atmosphere and the debris that does not is incinerated into a million smaller pieces. None of that brings any reassurance as tiny screw falling from space hitting you on the noggin would probably be fatal.

The article also brings up that 70 percent of the planet is covered in water and an even better portion of it is “uninhabited.” I’m not sure what exactly Time’s definition of uninhabited is, but I’m pretty sure the Roanoke-Chowan area and the hundreds of other farming communities fall somewhere under that category.

Then there’s the small mention of a 270 passenger airbus jetliner over the Pacific Ocean nearly being struck by a falling Russian satellite. And by the way, the Pacific Ocean is considering one of the safest places to bring down a satellite because of its “unpopulated vastness.”

The article goes on to add that there have been controlled landings of satellites and space crafts throughout the years, including the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory in 2000 and the Apollo 13 lunar module in 1970.

Feeling safe yet? Yeah, me neither.

The sentence that really got me while reading the article is the one that described how since the launch of Sputnik we have managed to pollute the space around our planet with 10,000 objects and 900,000 pounds of space trash—all of which are game to spiral into the Earth’s atmosphere at anytime.

Make sure to look out for falling objects.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: or call (252) 332-7209.