2/20/08

The satellite knock-down: a brief, off-topic rant.

(Not that I'm constrained to blogging about specific topics. This is my blog and I can do what I want. When someone pays me to do this, I (might) care about that person's opinions. In the meantime...)

The News Hour with Jim Lehrer is on right now and they're talking about the military satellite they need to shoot down before it crashes. A professor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is talking specifically about the lameness of the reason put forth by the government for shooting it down: the need to destroy the the tank of toxic fuel (hydrazine) before it lands on Earth.

I am so glad to hear someone say this because I was thinking the same thing.

Hydrazine is so explosive and volatile unstable, the very idea of an intact tank of it crashing to earth from orbit and creating a hazard on the ground is so beyond any informed person's imagination, that I can't believe they would even put that forward. (Is the tank made out of adamantium?)

This is so obviously a show of power and technical skill, and (the funny thing is) there's really no reason to hide that. China shoots down their satellites. Russia carries out "routine" missile test launches on December 25th. But the United States needs to be...altruistic? It's just not credible.

9 comments:

Frances said...

Watched the same show and believed the MIT guy, even though my knowledge of chemistry is nil. He and you are right, IMO.

Frances at Faire Garden

we like it when you go off topic, keep it up.
F

JvA said...

An off-topic comment:

Can you post more about the origin of your new blog title? I looked it up and found some references that said when someone's "working on their back 40" or whatever, it meant they were up to no good. I'd never heard the term before you used it.

Brent said...

I'm sitting right now not 200 yards from two tanks that returned from orbit mostly intact. I assume they were also mostly empty when they returned....

I'm not about to suggest that a frozen ton or more of deorbiting hydrazine is the only reason to shoot down that satellite, but it's at least within the realm of plausibility.

Consider the negatives that 1. Our military revealed a previously unquantified capability when we shot down the satellite and 2. Risked looking like buffoons if they failed. 3. The payload could survive intact.

I think you have to admit that it's clearly not all about a show of power.

chuck b. said...

1. I don't think that's a negative.
2. Yes.
3. What payload? The missile's?

No, it's not ALL about the show of power (it's also about demonstrating certain technical skills). But it's definitely not ALL about the hydrazine.

It would be naive to think otherwise, imo. My problem isn't even that they put forth a pretext to shoot down the satellite, it's this particular pretext.

Blackswamp_Girl said...

I think it's more about the fear of the technology in that satellite falling into the wrong hands. I think if they were sure it would hit within a friendly country that might give it back, that would be one thing... but...

Brent said...

Payload = The classified spy parts of the satellite.

I think that blackswamp_girl is on the right track.

Christopher C. NC said...

If the congress would just have granted the telcoms immunity in time then they wouldn't have had to shoot the thing down cause then it wouldn't matter if some of the "secret" stuff on the satellite got into the wrong hands. They'd already be off the hook.

How's that for a theory?

Blackswamp_Girl said...

Ah... sorry, Brent. I don't know why, but with all of the fuss about this hydrazine, I read "payload" and thought "fuel." Oops. :)

lisa said...

Hmmm...for most of last week, our local news told us there was an "air quality warning" for northeast Wisconsin, due to a large amount of "particles" in the air. But they wouldn't explain WHAT these particles were...is that hydrazine and satellite dust I smell? Or maybe toxic moth spray? Oh well, it's our benevolent government at work, so I'm sure if I needed to know, they would tell me, right?