In December 2006 a top-secret photo-reconnaissance satellite was launched from the Vandenberg Military Space Center in California.
This satellite is owned by the National Reconnaissance Office, or NRO. That agency builds and operates numerous spy satellites and also coordinates collection of information obtained from planes and satellites operated by the military and CIA.
The NRO was created in 1960 and has always been a highly secretive operation. To the extent that its very existence was denied until 1992. The NRO operates from a recently constructed headquarters at a secret location, which is on the east side of the Tee intersection of Lee Road and Conference Center Drive in Chantilly, Virginia, a Washington suburb.
The NRO tracks this satellite from its Satellite Mission Control Center, at a secret location on Lockeed Martin Way immediately north of highway 237 in Sunnyvale, California.
The Falling Satellite
The satellite of concern is reportedly designated US193 by NASA and the military and NROL-21 by the NRO. The satellite is reported to be the size of a small school bus and to weigh 5,000 pounds.
The satellite's purpose is classified but is thought to be provision of high-resolution radar images, which can be obtained under all weather conditions and can even detect underground features. This satellite is thought to be the fifth LaCrosse satellite currently in orbit.
The satellite was successfully placed in a 220-mile high orbit. However, for unexplained reasons, all power was lost and the central computer failed. All radio communication with the satellite was lost soon after final positioning.
The satellite became uncontrollable and is falling to earth. Fragmentation is expected to occur, but the time and location of impact of larger pieces is unpredictable.
The Dangers: First Low, Now High
The risk of human death or injury was initially determined to be minimal. The Defense Department initially considered the satellite failure to be "low risk".
That assessment quickly changed. The "dangers to mankind" became high. This justified the administration's decision to shoot down the satellite, to "protect mankind".
As the Defense Department explained, the President has decided to take action to:
"... mitigate the risk to human lives..."
Mitigation efforts will be, according to the Defense Department,
"extraordinary". Three sea-based tactical missiles and three ships will attempt to destroy the satellite during re-entry.
Right The First Time
The original risk assessment was correct. Dr. Ruediger Jehn, a space debris analyst with the European Space Agency, states that satellites come out of orbit without causing harm about once per year. Most re-entries are controlled and directed to the Pacific Ocean, but some are not.
The Defense Department has tracked re-entry of 20,176 space objects. During the past 40 years, almost 6,000 tons of space debris has fallen from the sky. The most spectacular example was the uncontrolled descent of space laboratory Skylab I in 1979. This satellite weighed between 20 and 30 times the satellite of current concern.
In all cases, adverse results to humans has been negligible. Per Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Henry L. Stimson Center:
"In the history of the space age, there has not been a single human being who has been harmed by man-made objects falling from space."
Although one woman near Davenport, Oklahoma was brushed on the shoulder by a piece of debris in 1997. No medical treatment was required.
This track record justified the warning of only a few hours issued by NASA late in January, 2002 when a similarly out-of-control satellite was falling from orbit:
"A retired satellite with no onboard steering system should re-enter Earth's atmosphere within hours and leave a trail of debris..."
That satellite weighed about 7,000 pounds. According to NASA, a handful of metal chunks ranging from 4 pounds to 100 pounds were expected to impact Earth.
Somewhere in the middle latitudes, on either side of the equator, from as far north as Orlando, Florida to as far south as Brisbane, Australia. The danger zones included parts of Florida, Central America, South America, the Caribbean and much of Africa, South Asia and Indonesia.
The Need to Protect Mankind
A very few Americans are surely touched by the Bush administration's newly revealed compassionate concern for the "safety of humanity", which for over seven years has been blatantly and callously ignored or scoffed and sneered at.
Many more Americans, including all those with more than an eight of a brain, recognize this newly discovered concern to be nothing but another in a long series of farcical, cynical presidential lies.
The administration's sole concern is the 40-inch diameter metal container holding roughly 120 gallons of hydrazine, the fuel for small rockets used to re-position the satellite.
Hydrazine is used for many other purposes besides rocket fuel, including as a component of photographic developers, as a corrosion inhibitor in boiler systems, and in production of plastics. Worldwide, about 130 million pounds are produced annually. In the United States, about 36 million pounds are produced and transported by truck and rail, without special protective measures, each year.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration acknowledges that hydrazine is highly toxic and "may be harmful if inhaled or swallowed" and "may cause severe skin and eye irritation or burns". Symptoms of acute exposure may include:
"Irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, dizziness, headache, nausea, pulmonary edema, seizures and coma."
"Use safety glasses, gloves and good ventilation. Handle as a carcinogen."
OSHA also recognizes that hydrazine is:
"an extremely unstable compound and can explode on casual handling."
This unique and remarkable characteristic explains hydrazine's suitability for use as a rocket fuel.
The Defense Department, which has not always proven to be a reliable source of truthful information, tells us:
"Direct contact with skin or eyes, ingestion or inhalations from hydrazine released from the tank upon impact could result in danger."
"... the impact could affect humans - perhaps kill some - out to a distance of 20 - 30 yards."
So the suddenly benevolent Defense Department will come to the rescue of mankind. By doing the one thing it knows how to do well. Bomb and violently destroy.
The Defense Department will shoot off one or more rockets to blow up the satellite in mid-air. If successful, one large piece of space debris will be transformed into hundreds or thousands of smaller pieces of space debris:
"If this operation is successful, the hydrazine will then no longer pose a risk to humans."
All these solemnly declared dire risks to the health of mankind are totally irrelevant.
The space shuttle, which is aerodynamically designed to minimize heat generation, re-enters the atmosphere at a 40-degree angle of attack.
The shuttle relies on a sophisticated thermal protection system against excess heat during reentry. Nose caps and leading edges of wings are the areas subject to the highest temperatures. They are protected by a laminated composite reinforced carbon-carbon material made of graphite rayon cloth impregnated with a phenolic resin. Areas subject to less extreme temperatures are protected by surface insulation tiles, made of very pure silica sand.
These exotic materials are used because of high temperatures experienced during controlled reentry. The tiles protect to temperatures up to 2300 degrees F. The carbon-carbon composite protects to temperatures up to 3000 Degrees F.
Expected Debris Reentry Temperature Levels
The NROL-21 satellite is not aerodynamically designed for minimized reentry temperatures. Given the inability to control descent, the attack level can reasonably be expected to approximate or exceed 40 degrees.
Meaning surface temperatures on pieces of debris can reasonably be expected to exceed 3000 degrees F.
The Stated Dangers Are Not Relevant
For comparative purposes, readers should note that hydrazine melts at 36 degrees F and vaporizes at 236 degrees F.
Vaporization occurs only under tightly controlled conditions, because:
Hydrazine, even without an igniter, spontaneously explodes at 101 degrees F.
End products from explosion are water vapor and nitrogen, both of which are benign.
Humans therefore will face no risk of injury from ingesting liquid hydrazine or from breathing hydrazine fumes, even if the tank survives to impact and then ruptures.
The Preferred and Only Solution: Bomb and Destroy
Humans may however face risk of injury from explosion as a tank containing 120 gallons of hydrazine heated to 3000 degrees F explodes upon impact. Assuming the tank doesn't prematurely explode during "de-orbiting".
Risk of explosion has never been mentioned by the Defense Department. Apparently because that risk was not worth mentioning.
This cavalier attitude should be expected from the Department responsible for dropping almost 500,000 pounds of bombs on Afghanistan during the first six months of 2007, to liberate the citizens from harsh government rulers with inhumane policies while winning their hearts and minds. One more explosion simply isn't significant.
This number exceeds the 222,000 pounds of bombs dropped on Iraq during the first six months of 2007, as a way of spreading freedom and democracy to survivors of years of earlier bombings. This period began over 41 months after President Bush declared the "end of major combat operations".
The Pentagon's preferred and only solution to the problem of a falling satellite is the same solution it reflexively proposes for any and all problems. Bomb and destroy, mitigation of risks to human lives be damned.
The Pentagon's attitude toward "mitigating the risk to human lives" as applied to lives of Iraqi citizens has been starkly expressed by Pentagon officials:
"We don't track them."
"They don't count. They are not important."
"If we have to go in by force to kill them, the numbers don't make a difference. It's not something we are concerned with."
President Bush's attitude is exactly the same. A hint of the basis for his lifelong attitude toward mitigation of risks to human lives can be gleaned from the attitude of his dearly beloved nurturing mother. On March 18, 2003, two days before the Iraq invasion began, Barbara told ABC-TV's Diane Sawyer:
"Why should we hear about body bags and deaths and how many... It's not relevant..."
Another Display of Bush's Impotency and Inadequacy
I say President Bush should, for once, stand tall like a real man, and make an untested, experimental effort to be honest with the American people.
By explaining he didn't authorize a risky multi-million dollar untested, experimental effort to "mitigate the risks to human lives".
He did this because of his infantile psychological need to prove to his father and the Chinese he isn't impotent, irrelevant, incompetent and inadequate, and that America is "the world's only superpower", a code phrase for impotent world-class bully.
Bush refuses to negotiate peaceful solutions because his handlers know he isn't intellectually or psychologically capable of conducting negotiations against savvy and sane opponents. Instead, he does the only thing of which he is capable: He flexes his muscles, beats his chest like a modern-day Neanderthal and issues provocations and threats, like a schoolyard bully.
Provocation of China
In December 2001 Bush unilaterally terminated the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The clear intent was to proceed with development of space weapons, in violation of the 1968 United Nations treaty on outer space.
For the past six years, Russia and China have worked cooperatively to curb proliferation of weapons in space. Last year, China displayed its frustration at America's continuing failure to even consider negotiations by destroying its Fengyun-1C weather satellite.
As to the pending race to develop space weapons as a path to ensure world domination, Bush has again chosen to respond with the only alternative available to him: Shoot rather than talk, provoke China and attempt to initiate yet another arms race, predictably horrendous consequences be damned.
The space arms race in competition with the Chinese will be frightfully expensive. America currently spends over $600 billion annually for national defense, more than is spent by all other nations combined and more than is spent for all other federal purposes combined. America runs a federal budget deficit of over $400 billion annually. America has a national debt of over $9 trillion. All signs of weakness rather than strength.
A question logically arises:
How will Bush pay the costs of waging a space arms competition against the Chinese?
In the same way he's paid portions of previous military costs:
By borrowing from the Chinese.
I again ask millions of American patriots to stand with me and demand:
Stop this insanity. Now.