Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Satellite Panic!

Just in case you've been in your Tora-Bora cave for the last few weeks, or hibernating... I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we're doomed! In a month or so, a satellite will crash back to the Earth's surface. Be afraid. Be very afraid! I know I am...

According to an online article, it's a spy satellite known only as "US 193." "It was launched in December 2006 but almost immediately lost power and cannot be controlled. It carried a sophisticated and secret imaging sensor but the satellite's central computer failed shortly after launch."

It's pretty big - and could hit North America in late February or early March!

Oh, the humanity!

Since I don't know much about satellites and stuff, I thought I'd get some advice from an "insider." My friend - my rocket-scientist friend - works for an aerospace company in the Bay Area. He does "sensitive" satellite-guidance stuff; that's all I know. (Besides, if I told you more, he'd have to kill me.) I'll call him "Billy."

I sent an email to "Billy":

Hi, Billy.

Is "US 193," the satellite that will hurtle back to earth in a month or so, one of YOUR babies?

Let me tell you this, my friend. I just did some work on my furnace and it is working perfectly! So if your satellite hits my house, I'm gonna be PLENTY ticked-off!!!

Since you're an expert, I'm asking... should I buy the supplemental satellite-collision insurance rider for my homeowners?

(If it crashes into my house, OR if it crashes at the park across the street and I'm the first one to get to it... eBay!!!)


He sent me this reply; I share it with you for the good of mankind:

Hi (name withheld)!

I know "US 193," but I can not talk about "US 193". They are predicting impact in North America. As time gets closer, they will be able to better predict re-entry. This far out, time wise, it is tough to model. It is large enough that some parts will make it to the ground.

Here is what you will need to do. For the next month, you and your family should be wearing hard-hats 24/7. Please remove all seat cushions from your couch and pillows from your beds. Attach these to the top of your automobiles. While riding your bike, do not listen to your Ipod. You need to listen for the whistle of 'incoming' objects.

As far as your house goes... it will be like shooting out your light switch with a .44mag (as you have done) times 100. Good luck with that insurance rider. That furnance will come in handy in heating your home with no roof.

The parts would fetch a good price on eBay....just don't sell them to foreign nationals. That would violate ITAR regulations!

I hope I was able to help you with your satellite survival guide ... keep watch on the sky.


I wrote back:

If I recover it, maybe I'll just hang onto it.

Could you Xerox me a copy of the repair manual? And are the parts available at Radio Shack?


"Billy" replied:

Radio Shack??? We get our parts from the electronic flea market in downtown Sunnyvale.

On a serious side note, a vendor of ours maintains some special test equipment that I need to test a box I am responsible for. The harddrive controller went bad and the only replacement that would work was a controller taken out of an Atari purchased at a pawn shop for $30. Now that is pure rocket science and should give you every confidence in our space program. Do you have the pillows on your car yet?


I wrote back:

That's pretty good! Any computer-type engineer worth his salt has to have a little "hacker" in his blood.

I'm still working on my tinfoil hat! (Don't want to get "radiated," you know.) When I get done with that, duct-tape and sofa cushions!!

Yeah, I'm worried. But at least this is a distraction from doing my income taxes. I'm gonna wait 'til after the satellite hits ground; if it lands on me, FORGET THE FORM 1040 THIS YEAR!

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