• Sat
  • Oct 25, 2014
  • Updated: 1:03am

A satellite falls but why no complaints?

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 September, 2011, 12:00am

A six-tonne US satellite is plummeting to earth, and the Nasa scientists who are monitoring it have no idea where the potentially dangerous debris will land. It could hit as far north as Edmonton in Canada or Aberdeen in Scotland, or as far south as Cape Horn, the southernmost edge of South America. The debris, likely to be broken into 100 pieces, could land anywhere in China or in every continent except Antarctica. The trajectory, however, will spare the US capital.

One Nasa scientist said predicting where a falling satellite might land is like predicting the weather several days ahead. You and I have a 1-in-3,200 chance of being rained on by the debris from the broken-up satellite, originally built to monitor the ozone layer. So much for Nasa precision!

This is pretty alarming. But what is perhaps also interesting is that no countries or activist groups are complaining about being put at risk. Granted, the risk is low, but it is real.

How different the world's reaction was in 2007 when China shot down a weather satellite with a medium-range ballistic missile. Foreign governments were worried about the military implications. But many green groups and critics said Beijing was irresponsible for potentially creating space debris that plunges to earth. In the event, most of the debris has been circling the earth as space junk.

So Beijing got a lot of criticism for creating a potential threat. The US is escaping censure despite posing an actual threat to life, limbs and property.

Imagine how the news headlines might be if this satellite had belonged to China.

China is catching up fast with space and other advanced technology. But it is not treated with the same leniency and tolerance as the US.


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