But thanks to a U.S. government decision, a dead spy satellite that was due to hit Earth sometime in the next few weeks will now be blasted to pieces by a missile, smashing it into millions of tiny pieces that should burn safely up in the atmosphere. Click here for more detailed background on the dead satellite.
However, many people, both professional analysts and freelance bloggers, say the real motive for shooting it down is to either test out new missile technology or to stop U.S. defense secrets being leaked, should it return safely to land.
The government has used the ‘excuse’ that it is necessary to stop the dangerous hydrazine fuel on board the satellite causing anyone any harm – this is also a very valid point, so let’s take a look at the safety risks of hydrazine:
- If humans are exposed to hydrazine (chemical formula N2H4), they can suffer the usual irritant reactions – eye irritation, dizziness, nausea, etc.
- However, it can also cause damage to the liver, kidneys and Central Nervous System
- It is also corrosive, so could burn your skin away
- Rodents exposed to hydrazine have an increased chance of developing tumors/cancer
OK, so hydrazine looks pretty toxic. But what would the chance have been of it smashing through your roof? Many estimates say there was around a 1% chance it would have landed in a populated area, and even then most of the satellite would have burned up in the atmosphere, leaving only the hydrazine and some scraps of metal to come to the ground. The hydrazine may well have stayed locked up in its container anyway.
I think shooting the satellite down is the best option, but I’d be really interested to hear your views too. Is it just a big government cover-up? What do you think? Post your comments below.
CNN has done an interesting analysis here.
UPDATE: The Space Shuttle will be under no danger from the satellite debris, as it will not be blown up until after the Shuttle returns to Earth Wednesday.
The mission will cost between $40 and $60 million (Click here for details).
Click here for an excellent interactive explainer detailing the satellite shoot-down mission, including a video animation
Filed under: Exploration, Science, Space, Technology | Tagged: America, defense, hydrazine, military, missile, NASA, national security, rocket, satellite, shuttle, space shuttle, spy, spy satellite, US, USA |