Thursday, February 21, 2008

That satellite we shot down

So the Navy shot down a satellite as it was plummeting to earth. Good for them! I'm sure they enjoyed the target practice.

But there are some concerns. An Op-ed piece in the LA Times explains just why this wasn't a good idea from a diplomatic perspective. Because, after all, we are proving to the rest of the world that we can shoot down satellites, which means that we might shoot down a satellite that is not one of ours. Personally, I don't think the militarization of space is a good idea.

And then there are some issues about just exactly why we did this. Supposedly it was a threat. Gail Collins, in her wonderfully dry way, asks the right question. According to Gen. James Cartwright of the Marines,

“It affects your tissues and your lungs. You know — it has a burning sensation,” General Cartwright said. “If you stay very close to it and inhale a lot of it, it could in fact be deadly.”

But Collins considers the hypothetical in a little more detail:

Let’s think about this for a minute. If you were, say, sitting on the porch reading the newspaper when a satellite plummeted into the backyard, emitting foul-smelling fumes, what are the chances you’d decide to stay very close to it and inhale a lot of it?

I'm sure I would. How often does a satellite fall in your backyard? Me, I'd be snapping pictures like crazy and then selling them to the National Enquirer. But I'd probably be taking the pictures with a telephoto lens.

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