THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING!
by gary d. goodwin
6 May 2000


Do you ever think about how much junk is floating up there above our heads? I think the numbers would really shock most people. I guess what I really think about when I consider the problem of space junk, is the ineptness of those who put the stuff up there in the first place. And let me start this off right - from the get go - I pay taxes here in the USA, so I suppose that I contribute to the problem too! But who's going to defy the IRS(Internal Revenue Service)? What we can do, is keep ourselves aware of what our money is being spent on and speak up. That's what TMG is about, to some degree.

But with that said, there is an important event or two coming up in the near future that you should know about. And if you haven't heard about them you really need to be informed. So here we go:

The First Event: A multibillion dollar communications company called Iridium, has recently gone bankrupt. Another business venture going belly up - biting the dust so to speak! However Iridium is a very special kind of telephone company. and it has something special about it that is very pertinent to our plight.

Telephones have come along way over the past few decades. We've gone from party lines and crankup phones to phones that you can talk to without a cord at home or on the freeway. But even cell phones have their limitations. You need a line-of-sight tower with a good signal to talk with someone. But what Iridium planned was a system of 66+ satellites that could cover the earth with signal. Here's what their website says about the program:

"The IRIDIUM system is based on a network of 66 satellites. The satellite constellation is distributed on 6 near polar planes and each plane carries 11 operational satellites, as well as one spare satellite. Each satellite weighs approximately 689 kilograms (1,500 pounds) and orbits at an altitude of 780 kilometers (420 nautical miles) above the surface of the Earth traveling around the planet once every 100 minutes. Unlike geostationary communications satellites which are located 36,000 kilometers above the Earth, the IRIDIUM satellites' low Earth orbit makes it possible to communicate directly with a hand-held telephone, in the meantime avoiding the typical delay of geostationary satellite transmissions. The satellite is linked to callers by a main mission antenna that offers 16 decibels of link margin, a signal that is strong enough to deliver high quality communications to a handheld telephone.
In contrast with traditional wireless systems, coverage is achieved by satellites that project a grid of cells over the surface of the Earth. Each satellite covers an area 4,000 kilometers wide, providing links to all IRIDIUM subscribers roaming in such an area."

So each satellite covers an area of 4000 kilometers for telephone service. The one big complaint that they have had is that the hand held phones are big and bulky (they look almost like one of those old army walkie-talkies in the movies) and are extremely expensive. Well the system may just become too expensive for all of us.

Recently the company has went bankrupt and has made the decision to CRASH all of the 66+ satellites into the earth! Not only are these satellites brand new and they were very expensive (what a waste), but now it seems that they may become a danger to us all. Oh I know - before they can say it - "THEY POSE NO RISK TO HUMANS". Now let's see... 1500 pounds apiece... coming out of the sky from 450 miles up...

Anyway...

The Second Event:Everybody must've seen this story by now:

"5/03/2000 10:31:00 ET
Space debris rains down on South Africa CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Three pieces of a large United States space rocket have crashed out of orbit onto South African soil in recent days, prompting a flurry of speculation that more could be on the way. The three sections identified as being from the motor of a Delta II satellite launch rocket fell on farmland in a line stretching 200 kilometers due east from Cape Town. "They are definitely from a Delta II rocket," Cees Rijswijk at Cape Town's observatory told Reuters. "There could be more on the way..."

So where did this piece of junk come from? Gotta be from the good ole' USA right? Consider for a moment the size of this piece of junk. It's a little bigger than a kitchen table. Now take another look at it. It's obviously manmade - there's even some writing still on the side of it there if you look closely! Looks pretty intact doesn't it? Are you starting to see the picture? Well... if you're beginning to get a bit concerned... Here's a real intresting story:

The Third Event: This reported recently by CNN:

"Huge NASA telescope headed for fiery descent in June
GREENBELT, Maryland (CNN) -- After nearly nine years in space, a 35,000-pound NASA observatory in low-Earth orbit is destined for a fiery descent this June into the Pacific Ocean southeast of Hawaii.
Sources tell CNN that during a meeting Thursday morning at NASA headquarters in Washington, senior managers at the space agency made the decision to send the $600 million Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory to a watery grave in the Pacific on June 3.
In early December, the observatory lost one of its gyroscope systems, leaving it with the minimum of two required to conduct scientific observations.
Engineers believe they cannot safely de-orbit the satellite unless both gyros remain operative, leaving the observatory with only one failure away from becoming a possible space-debris hazard. Scientists say they are also concerned about the operability of other critical systems on the satellite.
"It is an old satellite and some systems are failing," Burch said. "A major failure in a critical subsystem could hinder our ability to bring it down in a controlled way."

According to estimates, the debris field will be 26 kilometers (16 miles) wide by 1,552 kilometers (962 miles) long, putting 40,000 square kilometers of ocean in harm's way.
Engineers generated the estimate based on computer modeling of other controlled re-entries -- such as the space shuttle's external fuel tank -- which routinely fall harmlessly into the Indian Ocean following launches. "We're very concerned about hitting any land areas that are populated," Burch said. "We are being extremely conservative in our planning. There is plenty of margin of safety."
Compton is the heaviest unclassified satellite ever deployed by a space shuttle. The Hubble Space Telescope, launched in April of 1990, weighs about 4,500 kilograms (10,000 pounds) less than Compton, but is larger."

So now what do you think? Is it just me, or doesn't it seem to be getting a little dangerous down here on mother earth?

One other point aside from the danger, I would really like to make is this: the dates of these "crashes" seem to coincidentally happen very close to the same time as 76p's encounter with Mars. So if there will be any effects to be seen at all when the encounter occurs, they will only be able to be seen in the west, just after sundown. We are speculating that if anything occurs, it will be the last couple days of May or the first couple days of June - again the same time period that these satellites have been reported to be crashing through the atmosphere. Let me further say that without the instrumentation and access to data we cannot really be sure of this. It is an estimation based upon very limited available data. Of course we are open to an invitation to take a lok at the data! (I doubt it'll be coming in the mail anytime soon!)

So it is reported that the best place to crash these objects, down to earth is actually in the Pacific Ocean. I recall another event where we were expecting the visual capture of the so-called ORCA and lo and behold where it should've been seen in the west from the west coast of the U.S. we had a vandenberg launch. I'm sure it was just a coincidence. And I'm sure that all this is, is just a coincidence. I'll be watching, about you?


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