Whew... Chinese rocket should miss Fort Madison - Beside the Point


Well, I for one, feel better.

The European Space Agency has determined that 100-foot, 22-ton piece of a Chinese rocket probably will not hit Fort Madison.

The latitude of our city, in case you were wondering, is approximately 40.63 degrees north. The ESA, according to a report in CNN, said their math shows the rocket could land anywhere from 41.5 degrees north to 41.5 degrees south.

We had a laugh about that on the way to SubArena for lunch Saturday afternoon.

I suggested that the U.S. military track the thing and if it appears to be heading toward a populated area, we target it with some U.S. Army's Patriot missiles, I mean the thing is three stories tall. It's moving at about 18,000 miles per hour. That would be wicked target practice.

Experts say that the huge piece of metal will probably land in water. And their math, I'm not making this up, is because the earth is 70% water. Now I'm sure they've done way more calculating than that and have all kinds of data about the space junk reentering the earth's atmosphere.

Experts also say it's too big to just burn up on reentry. So it will hit the earth.

A sports talk show host who broached the subject on Fox Sports Radio this morning asked if it hit the Pacific, wouldn't that hit cause a tsunami.

I'm pretty sure it takes a tectonic plate shift in the earth to cause a tsunami, but the commentary brought a smile to my face.

The idea got me looking deeper into how the U.S. harmlessly brings rocket boosters back to earth. Those gotta be pretty heavy, too.

It appears that there are no real space rules governing space garbage. No penalties, just good "stewardship" of space junk.

There are almost limitless pieces of space junk littering space just outside our atmosphere, but affected by the earth's gravitational pull. According to NASA, the average piece is small enough to burn up as it gets sucked toward the earth.

There haven't been any international laws that prohibit nations from just ditching their boosters into the abyss beyond the ozone. But there should be. This one's on the Chinese and apparently they dumped it knowing full well that it would eventually drop back to earth.

The rockets are from a piece that was sent up for the new Chinese Space Station.

There is an unwritten rule or best practice for dumping rocket parts, but most of the world's countries have said better stewardship and retrieval should be part of the planning process.

So there would have to be reason for just letting this one fall back to earth. Monetary? Simple efficiency? The better answer is that it probably had to stay attached too long and didn't get pulled back down to earth on separation quick enough. When it did get separated, just 10 days ago, there was no way to manually retrieve it.

Maybe setting charges to blow it up instead of it just letting it jeopardize life, even if the odds are slight, is a better solution. The pieces would then most likely be taken care of by the earth's own defense.

I don't know. The whole things seem laughable, but then again it's not.

As my wife said Saturday night when I explained that we were outside of the Europeans' prediction model, "Yeah, but we live with Chuck luck".

She's right there.

But I'll sleep okay this weekend outside of fear of something crushing my home. But I don't joke when I say I hope that it doesn't land in some neighborhood on the big blue marble where loss of life would almost be a certainty.

In the meantime, c'mon man. Clean up after yourself. After all we only have one outer space.

Speaking of dark space, Saturday afternoon City Councilman and Your Heat & Air Guy Tom Schulz kicked in the door of a home with a basement fire and crawled through heavy smoke on the first floor to see if anyone was in the home. Firefighters were on scene for about five hours making sure the home in the 1200 block of Avenue D was out. Fortunately, no one was in the home at the time and Schulz got out unscathed. Above and beyond, sir.

Ian Eaves, a volunteer with Denmark Fire & Rescue showed up to help. He changed into his gear he brought to the scene... in a golf cart. But that's Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of the Pen City Current and can be reached at editor@pencitycurrent.com.

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