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back to article Astronauts chuck fridge off space station

Litterbug astronauts have hurled almost a ton of junk off the International Space Station, including an old refrigeration system weighing 1400lb, risking a fiery meteoric death for innocent Earth-dwellers. In sharp contrast to green consumers worldwide, NASA has brazenly revealed that the fly tipping spacemen hadn't even used …

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JP

Do you think Ladbrokes would take a bet?

5000:1 seem like pretty good odds.

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5000 to 1 shot...

Quick fag packet calculation: about 6.6 billion people on Earth, 5000 to 1 chance of it hitting someone. So thats around 1.3 million people who should be investing heavily in new hat technology, or at least looking cautiously upwards once in a while.

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Anonymous Coward

Flog it

Why didn't the leave it for the next trip? A genuine NASA fridge thats been in space would bring a fortune on ebay! Whats with these people.

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Anonymous Coward

So...

...more chance of getting hit by a fridge from space than dying from terrorism. Does this mean that buying food-cooling products is now an offence resulting in unexpected holidays in the Caribbean with complimentory all-over orange bathing suit thrown in?

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I guess

we won't be expecting a cool reception from the fridge when it comes back to earth..

I'll get my coat

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1 in 5000 chance?

Oh. That's alright then. Clearly an acceptable risk. No doubt they also did some risk assessment of where the potential impactees live, and who they vote for.

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So 39.5lb is way out then ?

"but pieces of the EAS as large as 39lb"

The genius to calculate bits as large as 39lb may make it down, how many rocket scientists did that take ?

BTW, is a lb a measure of size ? Surely as heavy as 39lb, and after that little incident with mars have they still not embraced the SI unit ?

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Good Lord

Reading the title I thought they'd thrown poor old William Perry defensive lineman for the Chicago Bears out into space.

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Silver badge

Whilst the pedants circle

Shouldn't that be a probability of 0.0002 that someone innocently out walking could be struck by a deorbiting Smeg?

If it happens, it'll look lousy on the insurance claim and the poor sod can guarantee something of an afterlife as a humourous footnote in every newspaper in the World.

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weights and measures

So the refrigeration system "weighed 1400lb" did it? One of the notable features of being in orbit is the microgravity, so the fridge actually weighed hardly anything. Perhaps you are confusing mass and weight?

Then, later in the article, as Robin points out, you confuse mass and volume.

Come on, this article was filed under Science. Couldn't you try a little bit harder.

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Anonymous Coward

If a fridge falls

from space and no one is around to hear it; does it make a noise?

Yes, probably a thunk/squish combination as the South American native is mashed under 39lbs of falling appliance.

It was thrown out directly over Brazil and is expected to land in the ocean or "uninhabited" parts of the Amazon rain forest. Anyone remember the movie "The Gods Must Be Crazy"? I hope a tribe of cannibalistic headhunters comes from deep in the jungle demanding retribution from the "Gods" at NASA. It would be the coolest news story ever.

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*argh*

Yeah right NASA, keep using that &$"§%!* WMA crap.

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Probability

Not sure of the maths here but a 1/5000 chance of it hitting *anyone* = a 1 in (5000 * 6.6 billion) chance of it hitting any particular person, right?

ie, a 1/33,000,000,000 chance of it hitting you?

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global warming

Perhaps if they were going to send a fridge to menace the earthlings for a year before selectively killing one, they could have at least turned it on to help offset global warming?

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Anonymous Coward

Filthy lucre

This stuff'll be up on eBay in no time, mark my words; either the pieces, or the actual equipment itself. Someone will spin a yarn about having borrowed Burt Rutan's latest rocket plane in order to catch this space bounty. With a big net. I know this is feasible, because I have a chunk of Skylab that I'm willing to sell. I, er, found it whilst on holiday in the Australian outback. It has "Brubaker - Willis - Walker" written on it.

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Ammonia

OMG! It will go right into the ozone layer! OMG! It will make another ozone hole!

I better go buy some 100-factor sun tan lotion quick...

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Re: Probability

Actually there's a probability of 1 in 5000 that it will hit anyone at all. The probability that it hits you if it does hit someone would be 1/6.6billion assuming a uniform distribution, but since it's in orbit around the earth, the probability is much higher under the orbit, and tapers out to zero the farther out you move. Quite frankly I've no idea what the actual distribution ends up being. I'd guess Guassian with a really tight sigma.

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Clay, your hometown of (tr)Ashland, NE, US is right proud of you.

Try to get it into Arlo's junkyard, will you?

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SI units?

The press release was designed for Americans, who, for the most part, are hopeless when it comes to SI (or metric, as we call it). There's even a lite beer commercial where they are talking about grams of carbs and one guys asks "Are you sure those aren't metric grams?" To which the other replies "I'm pretty sure all grams are metric."

I don't bother with conversions. That makes it silly. I know how much a pound is, I know how much a kilo is. And I don't even bother with the 2.2 pounds per kilo.

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Quick Calculashun

From 1,400 down to 39 pounds after deorbiting? That's a loss of roughly $2,724 USD!!! Way to waste money NASAW!

(Can't help but picture Slim Pickens astride the tank on its way down... Yeeeeehaaaawwwww!)

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Quick Calculashun

From 1,400 down to 39 pounds after deorbiting? That's a loss of roughly $2,724 USD!!! Way to waste money NASAW!

(Can't help but picture Slim Pickens astride the tank on its way down... Yeeeeehaaaawwwww!)

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Probability

To the people who are mis-calculating the probability:

It has a 1 in 5,000 chance of hitting me. It has a 1 in 5,000 chance of hitting you. It has a 1 in 5,000 chance of hitting Hilary Clinton. It has a 1 in 5,000 chance of hitting Tony Blair. It has a 1 in 5,000 chance of hitting the Pope. See where I'm going with this?

By the way, that probability is already based on the number of people on the planet. if there were fewer people, the probability would be less (fewer people = fewer people to hit = less probability). If there were more people, the probability would be greater.

Aside from that, is there any chance that this piece of junk they simply tossed out the window will wrap around in orbit and hit the station causing it to blow up? Or am I only dreaming?

Seriously, though, isn't it a bit irresponsible to simply throw out large pieces of trash that now need to be tracked from Earth so we know what/where to avoid for future missions? I agree with a previous comment -- they should have waited and brought it back, then flogged it on eBay or somewhere similar. There are always rich people who have nothing better to spend their money on.

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Backup

So now they've got the main fridge working, they're ditching the backup..?

Also, surely if they chucked it forwards, rather than backwards, it would spiral up out of orbit and be some alien's problem. Be a shame if the next Shuttle mission to fill up the main fridge collides with the other one on the way down...

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@Zarniwoop

A valiant effort, but you're missing some zeroes.

5,000 * 6.6b

= 5,000 * 6,600,000,000

= 33,000,000,000,000 (thirty-three trillion)

Not 33,000,000,000 (thiry-three billion)

Nevertheless, point taken.

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Silver badge

re: SI units

Pounds are not equivalent to kilograms.

Pounds are a unit of weight, kilograms are a unit of mass.

The non-metric unit of mass is the slug. A mass of one slug has the weight of one pound under standard gravitational acceleration.

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Anonymous Coward

SI Units

Yep, the release was for folks from the U.S. who shun the metric system as the work of the devil. (and Aaron speaketh "thou shalt not look upon or make measure of Gods creations using the work of the Gauls")

Besides the metric system is a huge disadvantage for those in the U.S. very few people can actually use it and even fewer still want to. I don't see why everyone can't go on making conversions. If nothing else it keeps the guys who make those neat converters in jobs.

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Conversions

"I don't bother with conversions. That makes it silly."

Wasn't that what those NASA scientists said about the Mars orbiter they lost?

@Chris "It has a 1 in 5,000 chance of hitting me. It has a 1 in 5,000 chance of hitting you. It has a 1 in 5,000 chance of hitting Hilary Clinton. It has a 1 in 5,000 chance of hitting Tony Blair."

Noooo, try again. It has a 1 in 5000 probability of hitting someone, not everyone.

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Lottory

"Artoo says the chances against survival are seven hundred twenty-five to one... Actually, I don't think we needed to know that."

Either way, if it misses the ocean, the guy who's house it lands next to will get a new fridge. :) It's like the lottory.

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RE: If a fridge falls

Would the ammonia provide a path for sound if it ruptured just after it was jettisoned in "space" and you were wearing a spacesuit travelling behind it, and does that count as a noise as your own internal perception would be the only way to gauge it in contrast to your expectation of sound?

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Anonymous Coward

RE: Probability

"It has a 1 in 5,000 chance of hitting me. It has a 1 in 5,000 chance of hitting you. It has a 1 in 5,000 chance of hitting Hilary Clinton. It has a 1 in 5,000 chance of hitting Tony Blair. It has a 1 in 5,000 chance of hitting the Pope."

So statistically speaking it is most likely to hit...

6,000,000,000 / 5000 = 1200000

...1.2 million people at once, when it "de-orbits".

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Weapons of Mass Refrigeration

I can't believe my own government is unleashing WMR (Weapons of Mass Refrigeration) on the world in such an indiscriminate manner! I'm humiliated and apologize on behalf of them all for terrorizing the world in this way!

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Anonymous Coward

NASA fined for littering.....

I thought NASA had learnt their lesson after the Skylab Litter Fallout Shocker!

Wikipedia:

(Skylabs) Earth reentry footprint was a narrow band (approx. 4° wide) beginning at about 48° S 87° E and ending at about 12° S 144° E, an area covering portions of the Indian Ocean and Western Australia. Debris was found between Esperance, Western Australia, and Rawlinna, Western Australia, 31–34°S, 122–126°E. An Australian municipality, the Shire of Esperance, fined the United States $400 for littering

Also:

http://www.space.com/news/spacestation/esperance_mir_010320.html

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Eh.

Is this the sequel to "Around Ireland With A Fridge"?

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Strange analysis

They're afraid to put the space shuttle up because someone might get killed, but they push a fridge out the door knowing someone might get killed...

Couldn't they have at least broken it down into smaller pieces that might be more likely to burn up on reentry?

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scary....

I don't know about you but I found this story very chilling.

Declan, have you nicked my coat?

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Anonymous Coward

Plot for a TV series

Hit by a piece of de-orbiting space debris?

Sounds like the plot for a TV series... oh wait it already was:

http://www.deadlikeme.tv/

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Anonymous Coward

No increased velocity upward, James

Pickett writes "surely if they chucked it forwards, rather than backwards, it would spiral up out of orbit." Not likely--there's no added lift from gas moving along a lift surface (normally, air, e.g. for a jet wing) and it has no thruster.

An object in orbit must accelerate in order to move to higher orbit. Release from the station does not likely add velocity along the orbital path of the ISS as the objects do not appear to have been flung when released. The ISS can move higher by acceleration but the objects will not gain orbital speed, lacking a thruster.

Also, releasing the objects "behind" the ISS allows the station to gain distance, ahead of a a hazard, rather than immediately be faced with the prospect of moving toward the discarded objects.

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Bronze badge

Skylab?

Wasn't there a kid in India named "Skylab Singh" because a bit of Skylab landed on the hospital when he was born?

Sure as hell do _NOT_ wanna be called "Smeg Smith"...

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Galactic fly-tipping is the least environmentally polluting thing they do...

The space shuttle uses about 2.3 million pounds of solid propellant in the

launch boosters and about 1.2 million pounds of liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen in the main engines. The latter only produce water vapour but the boosters use potassium perchlorate (KClO4) and powdered aluminum in the solid boosters. The combustion products are potassium chloride and aluminum oxide.

Multiply all that by the number of space launches since the 1950's, then add in a few other propellants like kerosine, and it becomes clear that the odd fridge or two lobbed out the back of a space station starts to look almost 'green' by comparison!

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Get away!

If the thing is filled with a coolant gas, couldn't they have made a hole in the system and aimed it at (say) The Sun, allowing the coolant to act as propellant?

Then it would have had a 1 in 5000 chance of hitting a crap newspaper reporter.

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Silver badge

My understanding of orbital mechanics might be a bit dodgy...

Can an astronaut give a 31lb fridge enough of a shove to ensure it enters an elliptical orbit, with a perigee deep enough inside the earth's atmosphere to slow it down? Or is it going to come back and collide with the station on a subsequent orbit?

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Hmm

An anonymous writer says "... Not likely--there's no added lift from gas moving along a lift surface (normally, air, e.g. for a jet wing) and it has no thruster."

Aerodynamic lift has nothing to do with it, if you send the thing off at a higher forward speed than the station, simple laws of physics say that it will go to a higher orbit (centripetal force is greater than gravitaitonal force, therefore it goes up). I suspect it would simply go to a slightly higher orbit, or more likely overshoot a bit and take upa non-circular orbit.

Brendan Weir

Posted Wednesday 25th July 2007 16:31 GMT

asked "Can an astronaut give a 31lb fridge enough of a shove to ensure it enters an elliptical orbit, with a perigee deep enough inside the earth's atmosphere to slow it down?"

I was under the impression that the ISS wasn't actually completely clear of the last remnants of the atmosphere, and so any object would experience a very small amount of drag. The act of chucking it backwards (ie lower speed) would make it drop down, and I guess they've worked out that the drag will prevent it getting back up to exactly the same height again.

If they recon it will only take one year to fall out of orbit, then there must be non-negligable drag up there.

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Bronze badge

@Brendan

"Can an astronaut give a 31lb fridge enough of a shove to ensure it enters an elliptical orbit, with a perigee deep enough inside the earth's atmosphere to slow it down? Or is it going to come back and collide with the station on a subsequent orbit?"

Define Deep Enough? the answer is yes.. look at it like this.. 0.001 Newton of resistance at first orbit, 0.002 second, 0.004 third, etc.. (increases each time as orbit decays and no thrusters to correct orbit) now calc how many orbits until it comes around again - bare in mind it will be a very long time, it was only shoved by an astronaut afterall say 3mph differential? means once around in approx 364 days.. then it becomes clear that the cumualtive drag of each 91 minute orbit is massive enough to sink it at least enough to miss the station by the time it comes back, @3mph approx 5700 orbits later.

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Tim

Atmospheric drag etc

* ISS is definitely experiencing drag due to the atmosphere. The graph at http://www.heavens-above.com/issheight.asp shows this very dramatically.

* throwing the fridge back along the ISS orbit will cause the fridge to enter an slightly eccentric orbit (the point on the ISS orbit where it was tossed will be the apogee.) With the perigee deeper into the atmosphere, it will be even more affected by drag than the ISS.

* For the record, the term pound can be either mass or weight. As Charles Manning pointed out, when "pound" is weight, the term for the mass which exterts that force under 1g is termed a "slug". However, when "pound" is used as a unit of mass, the term for the force exerted by that mass under 1g acceleration is a "poundal".

* It is possible that the internal calulations of maximum surviving chunk size were actually done in SI and converted to units that the American target audience (who have not been converted) would better understand. 39lbs is pretty close to 18Kg.

* Robin quibbled about the phrase "as large as 39lb". Apparently, Robin believes that "as large as" can only refer to linear dimensions. If you take out a "large loan" from a bank, does this mean that , when laid end-to-end, the bank notes would be rather long? Does the size of the loan decrease if one switch from $1 bills to $100 bills?

* Where'd the "31lb fridge" idea come from?? The piece of debris that was toss from the ISS was described as "1,400 lb"

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Projected landing?

If Nasa told us when and where the fridge was going to land surely we could videotape it coming down and bouncing off someones head. It would make the news and Nasa could learn how to hit more people in the future

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