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back to article 1-in-3,200 chance* that a fiery satellite chunk will hit someone on Friday

Small fiery pieces of what was once a climate-monitoring satellite will hurtle towards the Earth's surface this Friday. Unless you live in Greenland, Siberia or Antarctica, watch out for dazzling lights in the sky as red-hot lumps of NASA-grade aluminium descend upon our planet. The space agency predicts that the debris from …

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Bronze badge

Yes, because

everything that goes into space automatically becomes radioactive and as a bonus if it's living it acquires super-powers.

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WTF?

FFS, it's not going to be radioactive

At least, no more than a banana.

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Joke

Just use a mobile on the Three network to detect radiation

Just use a mobile on the Three network to detect radiation and if near the object you don't get reception then you know its radioactive. Failing that wait for Android 4.2 which has geiger counter sensor support for the japanese market.

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Anonymous Coward

US Government

I'm not sure they police the entire planet yet?, maybe eBay.

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Anonymous Coward

Wonder how 1 in 3,200 was derived?

I'll bet the old Far Side strip or South Park could tell us. Maybe a Lego simulation...

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Anonymous Coward

If only it landed in Basildon

If it landed on Dale farm in Basildon then I'm sure there would be alot of happy tax payers.

And before you complain it will be empty on friday and the whole cleanup would have to be born by NASA saving alot of money - that is the logic at work here, anything else is in your own evil minds :p.

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Bronze badge

"The smouldering lump will remain the property of the United States and must be turned over to local police."

Oh yeah? I know the US government seem to think their law applies around the whole planet, but it doesn't. I'd like to see them make that stick some countries. Personally I hope it lands (without harn to any life) in a country unfriendly to the US and that the people that find the bits make a fortune out of it.

I just love the fact that NASA think it's a big problem that one of their satellites may be damaged by space debris, but don't seem to think it's nearly as big an issue that somebody or their property may be hit by NASA's own space debris. Irony? They've heard of it.

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Why not steer away?

OK, maybe I missed a memo, but if NASA can "order the satellite to burn its remaining fuel," couldn't they also order it to push off in some direction out of our gravity pool?

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It would have had no where near enough fuel to do that. To escape our gravity pool it would probably have to increase its speed from about 8km/s to 11km/s. Don't forget, that kinetic energy is proportional to speed squared. It also had a lot of help to get to 8km/s, in the form of a much bigger launch rocket.

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Mushroom

Insufficient delta-V

To make a significant change to an orbit you need quite a lot of delta-V

To escape, you've got to burn fuel to get all that delta-V.

However, to crash you only need to burn fuel enough to enter an aerobraking scenario, which gives you delta-V for free, and you get even more when you hit the ground.

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Thumb Up

Good old days

Back from 1986 to 1991 I worked on the flight software for UARS. The onboard computer was a NASA Standard Spacecraft Computer-1 that I think was made by IBM. It used magnetic core memory, which was great because you could turn one side off for years and when you powered it back up, not a single bit was flipped. Memory words were 18 bits, so we did everything in Octal, not Hexadecimal (since 18 bits made 6 octal digits). The design language was FORTRAN 77. Once we got the FORTRAN running in simulation, we converted it to NSSC-1 assembly language manually (no compiler). Seems to me it ran about 150K instructions per second. UARS was a good satellite and worked for a long time.

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Interesting

That's the sort of thing I'd like to see more of on the Reg.

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Anonymous Coward

So what area is that?

1/3200 chance hmmm 510 072 000 km^2 earth surface 7x10^9 people assuming a person takes about 1 m^2 of surface area. I guess that means that somewhere is likely to get a nice 23m^2 divot Friday.

I always wanted my garden to Autodig

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Paris Hilton

I'm really not sure...

if I am hit by a falling piece of debris on Friday, do I

i) tell NASA to *** off, this isn't your piece of debris it's just A piece of debris... no that isn't half your logo on the side

ii) claim $10M from NASA for injuries caused by a falling flower pot

iii) roll over and die

I suppose it depends on the radiation count and accuracy...

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Pint

Please, please

Get serious for a moment. What if it lands in my Friday beer?

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1 in 3,200 is considered remote

Yet on Friday night millions of people across Europe will be clutching tickets that have 1 in 116,531,800 chance of ruining their lives with a single cheque for far too much money.

Better get the tin hat out in case a chunk falls through the roof just as my numbers are drawn...

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Mushroom

They don't care and we don't matter

One in 3200 does seem pretty likely, however, once NASA figured out it wasn't going to hit the US of A, they stopped caring and the UK TV news channels (I'm looking at you BBC and Sky) just regurgitated the press release without further thought.

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Silver badge

Admission of liability

"Sadly, if you do manage to catch a chunk of satellite, the US government expressly forbids you from selling it on eBay. The smouldering lump will remain the property of the United States and must be turned over to local police".

So, if said smouldering lump kills you and/or your family, your heirs will be able to prosecute the US authorities for murder (or, at the very least, manslaughter).

No, you say? Why on earth not? Oh, I see... the US government is free to bombard any part of the planet with impunity, not caring whom it kills or renders homeless - but if anyone dares to claim ownership of the debris that killed their nearest and dearest or demolished their home, THAT would be a crime?

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"So, if said smouldering lump kills you and/or your family, your heirs will be able to prosecute the US authorities for murder (or, at the very least, manslaughter)."

Y'all insist the case is tried in Georgia now.

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@ Grease Monkey

"Irony? They've heard of it".

No. No, I don't believe they have.

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Plot

This is an an attempt to assassinate Julian Assange. You mark my words, by the end of the day he will be a blob under two ton of scrap metal.

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Mushroom

Lotto or Satellite

People get hit by satellites all the time, it's just that it's so comman, it's no longer ne......................!!

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Sweepstake

Divide that part of the world's surface, where the bits are likely to fall (that's most of it), into a grid and have a sweepstake or similar where you can predict a likely impact area. Score one point if it's in the sea or an unpopulated area, two points for a populated area and three for an impact on a human. Charge each entry a Pound, Dollar, Euro or whatever and share the total take amongst the winners, minus a small administrative charge of course. More fun than a lottery.

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Facepalm

With those odds, with my luck....

.........I would win the lottery, THEN get killed by the satellite

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Wait a minute

Isn't this how one of Maggie's boyfriends died in Northern Exposure?

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It could be YOU

That is all.

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Coat

What, the subtitle isn't

"as Climate Scientists Once Again Threaten the Well-Being of Inhabitants" or some such?

For shame.

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Megaphone

Oh NO!

Keep that malevolent glowing yellow fruit away from me! If it was a normal banana I would know how to defend myself, but a radioactive space mutant banana...run for your lives!

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It's OK the US is safe....

"As of 9:30 p.m. EDT Sept. 22, 2011, the orbit of UARS was 110 mi by 115 mi (175 km by 185 km). Re-entry is possible sometime during the afternoon or early evening of Sept. 23, Eastern Daylight Time. The satellite will not be passing over North America during that time period. It is still too early to predict the time and location of re-entry with any more certainty, but predictions will become more refined in the next 24 hours."

From:http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/uars/index.html

"The satellite will not be passing over North America during that time period."

That about says it all. As long as stuff won't be raining down on North America everything is fine then.

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Anonymous Coward

What on Earth are we sending into space?

There is this report http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15023115 on the BBC which includes the statement:

“The debris will include three batteries, four wheel rims and four fuel tanks, and their speed when they hit the ground or the ocean will vary.”

The batteries and fuel tanks are quite understandable but when read in conjunction with the rims, one has to ask “Who’s made off with the tyres?”

(There’s a sub-joke here where someone will say that he probably has but this is not the place to discuss the new Tardis design.)

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Coat

Yeah, that "four wheel rims" got a hearty WTF? out of me. My guess is that they were included so someone at JPL could go around crowing "SPINNERSSSS INNN SPACCCCE!"

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Pint

The 22.4 trillion possiblity...

...is made on the erroneous assumption that all 7 billion people on earth are outside, watching the downfall (pun!).

In fact chances are even much smaller, that any human being is hit. So all those with the tinfoil hat, swap it for a drink in your pub, somewhere inside, when the parts land.

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