Thursday, February 12, 2009

'Eye In Sky' Bird To Lose Orbit, Maybe Wreak Havoc


WASHINGTON - NASA space officials disclosed today that a ‘very, very large’ spy satellite has lost power and propulsion, and sometime in late February or March will impact the earth. The satellite could contain hazardous materials, according to a NASA spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, with respect to the sensitive nature of the satellite’s mission.

The announcement comes just on the heels of another space misadventure, when a US satellite collided with a Russian satellite over Siberia. Although confirmed by both governments, neither would comment further on the matter.

Reporters asked, “What do you mean, ‘could’ contain hazardous materials?”

“It either does or it doesn’t,” the spokesman said. “Therefore, it could.”

Reporters pressed for answers. “Does what? Impact the earth, or contain hazardous materials?”

“It’s going to impact the earth," he said. "That much is certain. Hard and fast and out of control. And we know you are writers. That much is certain.”

Gordon Johndroe of the National Security Council said, “Numerous satellites have fallen harmlessly out of orbit. We are looking at potential options to mitigate any possible damage this satellite will cause.”

The official said the satellite could harmlessly splash down into the Pacific, like the last time, or crash into someone’s house in Fenton, Iowa, a chance in 200 million, he said. “You’d have better odds at hitting the lottery, or going down in an airliner,” he laughed.

Tom Mackelry, of western Australia, wasn’t laughing. A large portion of the former Skylab, which was expected to fall into the remote Indian Ocean, rained down upon his house in July of 1979, six years after its launch, destroying the home.

“If I hadn’t gone for dog food, I’d have been a goner, too,” said Mackelry, sitting poolside in his large mansion in suburbia Queensland as an outcome of a negotiated government settlement. “My pets and wife wasn’t so lucky.”

In a worst-case scenario, the official said the satellite had ‘a very, very, very, very low probability’ of striking a city like Dallas. But if it did, without revealing the nature of the onboard contents of the satellite, he said the "entire city would in all likelihood require evacuation. People would need to mobilize on extremely short notice."

“These kinds of events are always iffy,” he added. “It could be a simple splash down, or a complete unprecedented disaster. We’re hoping for the western Pacific, or one of the Pacific rim nations, but it’s never a sure bet. A pissant's puff in space equates to 10,000 miles on earth.

“Even our best brains are in an office pool, ten bucks a pin, picking out points on the map,” he said. “One guy even picked a Home Depot in Des Moines. Said he saw it in a dream. Most think if we miss, we'll hit somewhere in China or the North American continent.”

When pressed for additional details, the official said, “Well, whoever is the closest wins the whole pot.”

The U.S., Russia, India, France, England, Germany, China, Pakistan, Indonesia, Qatar and Yemen currently have zillions of satellites in earth orbit. Even the tiny Asian country of Laos is getting in the game with its first satellite launch, scheduled for later this year by state-owned Lao Telecom.

'Now we wir hab our own saterrites with this raunch,' said a recent official release from the LPDR’s government news agency.

In Mexico City, the Deputy Foreign Minister said of the planned late-March Lao launch, “If they can pull it off, I think we can, too. I believe we can get in the game, my friend. How much does it cost?”

NASA was reluctant to say exactly how big the satellite was. "Let's just say it's big," the spokesman said. "Bigger than a breadbox."

"But smaller than what?" asked reporters.

"Smaller than the Houston Astrodome," said the offical. "Smaller than Fenway Park."

Reporters asked how much advance notice people will have. The spokesman said, "From now until re-entry, it's ten dollars. After that, the price goes up to twenty. We shut down bets ten minutes to splashdown. Like I said, it's coming in hard and fast."

When asked how big the event could possibly be in a worst-case scenario, the NASA official said, “There's no telling the potential at this point. We'll know more in a couple of weeks. Right now, we're already up to twelve hundred dollars.”