It’s raining satellites… hallelujah?

A U.S. spy satellite has gone rogue and will likely come crashing down to the surface sometime in the next month or two. That’s bad news, as the satellite is roughly the size of a school bus and may contain hazardous material. (The largest historical instance of “uncontrolled entry” was Skylab, which crashed and burned ...

596837_skylab_05.jpg
596837_skylab_05.jpg

A U.S. spy satellite has gone rogue and will likely come crashing down to the surface sometime in the next month or two. That's bad news, as the satellite is roughly the size of a school bus and may contain hazardous material. (The largest historical instance of "uncontrolled entry" was Skylab, which crashed and burned in 1979 in the Indian Ocean and the western Australian outback. Luckily, nobody was hurt.)

The satellite's fall to Earth presents an interesting dilemma for the U.S. administration. Let gravity take its course, and there's a chance innocent people could get hurt. Shoot it down, and the Bush administration might get into diplomatic trouble with China and create an unintended international precedent. Remember when, after China's anti-satellite missile test last January, the United States was harshly critical of the Chinese government? If the United States is now forced to shoot its own satellite down, it may only reinforce the impression abroad that America just does whatever it wants in space, but looks askance at strategic space activities by other countries. Beijing may leap at the chance to accuse Washington of promoting a double standard.

This is exactly why it's time to push for an international treaty banning space weapons, opponents of the weaponization of the final frontier might argue. I don't want space missiles from other countries pointed at my house any more than the next guy, but I do wonder if a space arms race isn't the more likely outcome. The capabilities space affords corporations and governments are just too powerful to leave unprotected, unfortunately, and the Chinese probably see "Star Wars" as one area where they can catch up with the United States.

A U.S. spy satellite has gone rogue and will likely come crashing down to the surface sometime in the next month or two. That’s bad news, as the satellite is roughly the size of a school bus and may contain hazardous material. (The largest historical instance of “uncontrolled entry” was Skylab, which crashed and burned in 1979 in the Indian Ocean and the western Australian outback. Luckily, nobody was hurt.)

The satellite’s fall to Earth presents an interesting dilemma for the U.S. administration. Let gravity take its course, and there’s a chance innocent people could get hurt. Shoot it down, and the Bush administration might get into diplomatic trouble with China and create an unintended international precedent. Remember when, after China’s anti-satellite missile test last January, the United States was harshly critical of the Chinese government? If the United States is now forced to shoot its own satellite down, it may only reinforce the impression abroad that America just does whatever it wants in space, but looks askance at strategic space activities by other countries. Beijing may leap at the chance to accuse Washington of promoting a double standard.

This is exactly why it’s time to push for an international treaty banning space weapons, opponents of the weaponization of the final frontier might argue. I don’t want space missiles from other countries pointed at my house any more than the next guy, but I do wonder if a space arms race isn’t the more likely outcome. The capabilities space affords corporations and governments are just too powerful to leave unprotected, unfortunately, and the Chinese probably see “Star Wars” as one area where they can catch up with the United States.

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