Space debris and the victim of circumstance
Friday morning, she awoke as usual to the last workday of the week. Her routine began on time and Paula Smallerton rushed through the morning drill to get to her office downtown that would require a stop for a cup of coffee and Danish at Caribou. She ate Danish’s only on Friday as a reward for working hard all week. This evening, Paula was going to meet friends after work for a cocktail and conversation. What fun to have a job and good friends? What a life!
She juggled her purse, coffee, and Danish in a paper sack as she approached the crosswalk. Her office was directly across the street from Caribou. She knows she needs 12 seconds to walk with long strides across the street before the light changes. The signal says 13 seconds so she begins the gate with others by her side.
Half way across the street from seemingly nowhere, something struck Paula. It wasn’t a car or bus. It was a small object traveling with great velocity. At the 6th second in the crosswalk, her mind abruptly stopped and she faltered, dropping her coffee, sack, and purse. She had no time to struggle for balance as she was going down.
The people around her were startled as there was no apparent reason for her having difficulty. The light changed, but cars were stopped and good Samaritans surrounded the young lady lying motionless in the crosswalk.
A small spot of blood appeared at the top of her head.
Twenty miles away, only seconds later, Bob Johnson sat at his breakfast table in his suburban ranch-style house. He was reading the paper and eating Cheerios when he heard a sharp crack. He looked around and in the ceiling not far from where he was sitting, a hole appeared. Plaster was on the floor underneath and a small object appeared to be molten metal about the size of a coffee cup.
NASA said, a satellite would fall sometime today, and it did. The coroner declared the cause of Paula's death space debris.
“NASA satellite to fall to Earth
An out of use NASA satellite is due to crash into Earth on Friday, though officials have admitted they can't predict exactly where the debris will hit.
In 1991, the six-and-a-half ton Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) was taken into space during a shuttle mission. For 14 years it measured ozone and other chemicals in the Earth's atmosphere before completing its mission in 2005.
However, thanks to Earth's gravitational pull, for the last six years UARS has been slowly losing altitude and experts predict the 35-foot-long satellite will pass through the atmosphere and crash down to Earth on Friday.
Most of the six-and-a-half ton satellite is expected to disintegrate during its journey through the atmosphere but NASA scientists predict 26 pieces, weighing a total of 500kg, will crash to Earth. Experts have calculated there is a one in 3,200 chance that a piece of the debris will hit a person and expect the satellite to land in the sea or an uninhabited part of the World.
With a variety of debris and waste flying around all the time, space is dangerous place. Have you been paying attention to the crashes? Take our quick quiz and find out.
The largest meteorite ever found in the US is called the Williamette Meteorite and is on display at the American Museum of Natural History. Can you guess how much it weighs?
It's not only on Earth that space debris can cause a problem. Earlier this year, astronauts aboard the International Space Station had to prepare for evacuation after some space junk was spotted approaching. In the end, the unidentified object missed the Space Station, but can you remember how close it had passed by?
The Moon has had its share of things crashing into it too. In 2009, NASA deliberately fired a two-tonne Centaur rocket into its surface, causing a large crater. Why did they do that?”