Defunct Satellite to Fall on Earth


    Defunct Spy Satellite Falling From Orbit

    Posted: 2008-01-27 18:11:07
    Filed Under: Nation News, Science News
    WASHINGTON (Jan. 26) - A large U.S. spy satellite has lost power and could hit the Earth in late February or early March, government officials said Saturday.

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    1979: Skylab, a 78-ton space station, fell from orbit, scattering debris over the Indian Ocean and remote western Australia. The crash of the American spacecraft caused no damage.

    The satellite, which no longer can be controlled, could contain hazardous materials, and it is unknown where on the planet it might come down, they said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the information is classified as secret. It was not clear how long ago the satellite lost power, or under what circumstances.

    "Appropriate government agencies are monitoring the situation," said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council, when asked about the situation after it was disclosed by other officials. "Numerous satellites over the years have come out of orbit and fallen harmlessly. We are looking at potential options to mitigate any possible damage this satellite may cause."

    He would not comment on whether it is possible for the satellite to be shot down by a missile. He said it would be inappropriate to discuss any specifics at this time.

    For years, astronomers have been baffled by the source of antimatter. Now, researchers say the matter-annihilating material is generated when stars get ripped apart by black holes or neutron stars. In this image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, thousands of stars swirl around the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

    A senior government official said that lawmakers and other nations are being kept apprised of the situation.

    The spacecraft contains hydrazine — which is rocket fuel — according to a government official who was not authorized to speak publicly but spoke on condition of anonymity. Hydrazine, a colorless liquid with an ammonia-like odor, is a toxic chemical and can cause harm to anyone who contacts it.

    Such an uncontrolled re-entry could risk exposure of U.S. secrets, said John Pike, a defense and intelligence expert. Spy satellites typically are disposed of through a controlled re-entry into the ocean so that no one else can access the spacecraft, he said.

    Pike also said it's not likely the threat from the satellite could be eliminated by shooting it down with a missile, because that would create debris that would then re-enter the atmosphere and burn up or hit the ground.

    Pike, director of the defense research group, estimated that the spacecraft weighs about 20,000 pounds and is the size of a small bus. He said the satellite would create 10 times less debris than the Columbia space shuttle crash in 2003. Satellites have natural decay periods, and it's possible this one died as long as a year ago and is just now getting ready to re-enter the atmosphere, he said.

    Jeffrey Richelson, a senior fellow with the National Security Archive, said the spacecraft likely is a photo reconnaissance satellite. Such eyes in the sky are used to gather visual information from space about adversarial governments and terror groups, including construction at suspected nuclear sites or militant training camps. The satellites also can be used to survey damage from hurricanes, fires and other natural disasters.

    The largest uncontrolled re-entry by a NASA spacecraft was Skylab, the 78-ton abandoned space station that fell from orbit in 1979. Its debris dropped harmlessly into the Indian Ocean and across a remote section of western Australia.

    In 2000, NASA engineers successfully directed a safe de-orbit of the 17-ton Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, using rockets aboard the satellite to bring it down in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean.

    In 2002, officials believe debris from a 7,000-pound science satellite smacked into the Earth's atmosphere and rained down over the Persian Gulf, a few thousand miles from where they first predicted it would plummet.

    Associated Press writers Pamela Hess and Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.

    Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. All active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

    2008-01-26 17:36:20
  2. See. This is more than just a little bit scary. I'm gonna be picturing this thing or pieces of it crashing down on me while I'm sleeping at night!

    Ouch! The randomness!
  3. I can think of a few people I'd like it to crash down on. (You're not one of them, Caxe!):p
  4. Whew!

  5. Oh my! I remember when SkyLab came back to Earth. I was in Eureka California then and we all made jokes about it and took bets on where it would land.

    Personally, I wouldn't worry about it too much. With the technology of today, it could be tracked as it comes into orbit, and what doesn't burn up in the re-entry of the atsmosphere could be waylayed with rockets and fighter planes. IF it falls slowly enough. What's the chances it's gonna hit a popualted place? There's a lot more unpopulated areas than populated ones.

    Relax! If it does hit you, your survivors can sell the reminants on eBay!
  6. So say it does land on someone/group of someones. Couldn't the public sue the US government for that? Or are these things just so beneficial to all of us that the benefits outweigh the risks?

    Either way, I'm digging a really REALLY deep pit with a really REALLY long straw.

  7. :roflmfao::roflmfao::roflmfao:
  8. :nuts::nuts::nuts: - Under what category would you list!!!!

  9. Weird and unusual items? Falling government junk? Just Junk in General?

    Oh, I got it... Spy Equipment. Used.
  10. Speedy - OMG - you crack me up!

  11. I aims to please!! :roflmfao:
  12. I hope this will not harm anyone!