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Sep. 15, 2011

Collateral Satellite Damage

by Sam Flatow

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A word on school-bus sized objects falling from the sky:

Somewhere in the world, a US satellite is going to crash into the Earth. Where is it going to land? Between 57 degrees north and 57 degrees south, which is roughly any place warmer than Canada. When will this be happening? Sometime between September and October.

Quick recap:
Location? Earth.
Time? Soonish.

That’s standard for old satellites, they just kind of fall and disintegrate and crash and then nobody gets to keep it because of some sort of anti-spaceship-prospecting law. So, if you get woken up at 4 AM by meteoric garbage smashing through the roof, you don’t get anything, not even a t-shirt, “I dodged a 300 mph burning chunk of aluminum and all I got was this cliché.”

Ok, so chances are that it will land in the ocean. That doesn’t mean people won’t be hurt. Back in 2000, a man – no, a visionary! – in Texas found a French rocket nose-cone washed up on the beach. He brought it back to his mobile home, and decided that, in his own words, “It should be preserved for a historical society….”

Did you hear that world? It belongs in a museum!

“Because I’m a little bit trailer trash and a little bit pirate, I thought it’d be good recycling to make it into a hot tub. I even thought about making it a fish pond.”

…Or his backyard, which doubles as a museum. This man is a hero. Wouldn’t it be great if other museums used this technique? An Egyptian sarcophagus would make a great coffee table, and the mummy could model the newest fashions.

Somebody's ready for Fall.

Alas, the French wanted their 2 year-old piece of rocket junk they cared so little about that they dropped it in the middle of the ocean. Great, way to ruin the worlds first Space Jacuzzi/Intergalactic Aquarium. But don’t worry too much about our Texan buccaneer. A local spa business gave him a 7×7 foot spa shell, which he could turn into a rowboat or a doghouse. Still, I doubt it’s been in orbit.

So this time, finders-keepers. If some hillbilly Viking wants to rig a bobsled out of broken solar panels, don’t interfere with history. Videotape it.

About Sam Flatow

Sam is an assistant producer at Science Friday where he prepares the tasty SciFri snacks and blogs about smart cephalopods and zombie ants.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

Science Friday® is produced by the Science Friday Initiative, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Science Friday® and SciFri® are registered service marks of Science Friday, Inc. Site design by Pentagram; engineering by Mediapolis.

 

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