Partly Cloudy With A Chance Of Falling Satellites

Here we go again, this time it’s the German’s turn to randomly drop [expletive deleted] from orbit.

Falling German Satellite Poses 1-in-2,000 Risk of Striking Someone This Month

A big German satellite near the end of life is expected to plunge back to Earth this month, just weeks after a NASA satellite fell from orbit, and where this latest piece of space junk will hit is a mystery.

The 2.4-ton spacecraft, Germany’s Roentgen Satellite (ROSAT), is expected to fall Oct. 22 or 23.

The satellite will break up into fragments, some of which will disintegrate due to intense re-entry heat. But studies predict that about 1.6 tons of satellite leftovers could reach the Earth’s surface. That’s nearly half ROSAT’s entire mass.

There is a 1-in-2,000 chance that debris from the satellite could hit someone on Earth, though the likelihood of an injury is extremely remote, German space officials say. For German citizens, the risk of being struck is much lower, about 1 in 700,000.

All areas under the orbit of ROSAT, which extends to 53 degrees northern and southern latitude, could be in the strike zone of the satellite’s re-entry.

See also:
Falling ROSAT satellite to make reentry between Oct. 21 – 25
German satellite to plunge back to Earth
Huge German Space Junk Satellite To Fall To Earth Sooner Than Expected
Dead German satellite to fall on earth
Massive German satellite will fall to Earth this week
Duck and cover: ROSAT is the next re-entry
Reminder: ROSAT’s coming down soon
ROSAT expected to fall to Earth sometime this week, scientists say
German satellite set to fall to Earth
Not NASA but German Satellite will fall to Earth this weekend
Last chance to see doomed German satellite in night sky
Falling German Satellite Has a 1-in-2,000 Chance of Hitting Somebody
Track Germany’s Falling, 2.4-Ton Satellite in Real-Time
The ROSAT Mission
ROSAT

You’d think that by now, we’d have the technology to orbit powered drones with robotic arms that could guide these massive dead satellites into a controlled deorbit.

/joking about a 1 in 2000 chance of getting hit by tons of space junk moving at terminal velocity is all fun and games until someone actually gets hurt

Picking Up Where We Left Off

NASA may be grounded, but the Chinese are just getting warmed up.

Rocket launches Chinese space lab

A rocket carrying China’s first space laboratory, Tiangong-1, has launched from the north of the country.

The Long March vehicle lifted clear from the Jiuquan spaceport in the Gobi Desert at 21:16 local time (13:16 GMT).

The rocket’s ascent took the lab out over the Pacific, and on a path to an orbit some 350km above the Earth.

The 10.5m-long, cylindrical module will be unmanned for the time being, but the country’s astronauts, or yuhangyuans, are expected to visit it next year.

Tiangong means “heavenly palace” in Chinese.

See also:
“Heavenly Palace:” China’s dream home in space
Space flight in service of science
Tiangong-1 blasts off
China’s Space Launch Closes Gap With U.S.
China launches Heavenly Palace space station module
China launches module for space station
China launches 1st space station module
China Launches Spacecraft, Eyes Space Station
China Launches ‘Heavenly Palace-1’ Into Space; Takes Step Toward Station
China Set to Launch Its Own Space Station; Mission: Unknown
China Launches Space Lab; An Insider Look Into China Space Program
Rocket’s red glaring error: China sets space launch to America the Beautiful
Tiangong 1

Okay, so the Chinese are still quite a ways behind the U.S. space program.

/but hey, at least they have an active space program

Look Out Below!

As they say, what goes up, must come down. Round and round she goes, where she’ll hit, nobody knows.

Huge Defunct Satellite Falling to Earth Faster Than Expected, NASA Says

NASA space junk experts have refined the forecast for the anticipated death plunge of a giant satellite, with the U.S. space agency now predicting the 6 1/2-ton climate probe will plummet to Earth around Sept. 23, a day earlier than previously reported.

The defunct bus-size spacecraft is NASA’s Upper Atmospheric Research Satellite (UARS), which launched in 1991 and was shut down in 2005 after completing its mission. The satellite was expected to fall to Earth sometime this year, with experts initially pegging a weeks-long window between late September and early October, then narrowing it to the last week of this month.

. . .

NASA expects at least 26 large pieces of the massive satellite to survive the scorching temperatures of re-entry and reach Earth’s surface. Titanium pieces and onboard tanks could be among that debris, but the UARS satellite carries no toxic propellant (NASA used up all the fuel in 2005).

The debris is expected to fall over a swath of Earth about 500 miles (804 kilometers) long, NASA officials said.

There is a 1-in-3,200 chance of satellite debris hitting a person on the ground, odds that NASA says are extremely remote. Outside experts agree.

See also:
Dead NASA Satellite Falling From Space, But When & Where?
Space Satellite UARS Adrift and Heading for Earth
Nasa warns of fresh risk from £468m satellite falling from space
NASA Not Sure When, Where Falling Satellite Will Hit Earth
NASA Satellite Falling to Earth: Will You Be Hit?
Nasa satellite UARS nearing Earth ‘could land anywhere’
NASA is Deorbiting a Satellite, but They Don’t Know Exactly Where or When It’s Coming Down
The Sky is Falling As UARS Drops In
Keep Sept. 23 open: A satellite is heading our way
Six-ton NASA satellite to collide with Earth
NASA UARS satellite expected to crash to Earth

A 1 in 3,200 chance of a piece of debris hitting someone on the ground is extremely remote? Um, no, the chances of getting hit by lightening or winning the lottery are remote. 1 in 3,200 is like hey, don’t forget to duck.

/we have much larger satellites on orbit, let’s hope we never lose positive control of any of them, say as the result of a Chinese attack

Honk For Saudi Women

Seriously, what says 21st century like making your women wear bags and not allowing them to drive?

Saudi women encouraged to drive Friday

Saudi women are being encouraged to challenge the status quo and get behind the wheel Friday.

Though there are no traffic laws that make it illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia, religious edicts are often interpreted as a ban against female drivers. One female motorist spent more than a week in custody in May, supporters said.

The day is expected to be a test of wills — and authority — between police and the campaign, which has been publicized by Facebook, Twitter and other social media. It was not clear late Thursday how many would participate.

See also:
Saudi women to take fight from Web to road
Campaign Protests Saudi Arabia’s Ban On Women Behind The Wheel
Saudi Arabian women to drive Friday despite ban
Saudi women plan to defy authorities by driving cars Friday
Will Saudi women get in the driver’s seat?
In protest of Saudi ban on women drivers, will any brave the road?
Saudi women set to defy driving ban
Saudi women to protest driving ban
Honk for Saudi Women

Of course, any woman who participates in tomorrow’s driving defiance event will most likely be arrested and punished for an activity most of the rest of the world takes for granted. I hope they have the courage to stand up for themselves and wish them good luck in their protest.

/if it weren’t for their oil, the Saudi Arabian oil ticks would have absolutely zero redeeming value in the civilized world.

When Do We Attack China?

This is a pretty bold threat, seeing as how the United States’ government, infrastructure, corporations, and individuals are being seriously cyberattacked ever second of every day.

Cyber Combat: Act of War

The Pentagon has concluded that computer sabotage coming from another country can constitute an act of war, a finding that for the first time opens the door for the U.S. to respond using traditional military force.

The Pentagon’s first formal cyber strategy, unclassified portions of which are expected to become public next month, represents an early attempt to grapple with a changing world in which a hacker could pose as significant a threat to U.S. nuclear reactors, subways or pipelines as a hostile country’s military.

In part, the Pentagon intends its plan as a warning to potential adversaries of the consequences of attacking the U.S. in this way. “If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,” said a military official.

See also:
Pentagon warns that cyber-attacks will be seen as ‘acts of war’
US Pentagon to treat cyber-attacks as ‘acts of war’
‘Cyber attacks are an act of war’: Pentagon to announce new rules of engagement against state sponsored hackers
US could respond to cyber-attack with conventional weapons
U.S. Government Says Cyber Attacks May Be Acts of War
Pentagon: Computer hacking can constitute an act of war
U.S. will treat cyber-attacks as act of war
Get Your Cyber War On
Acts of War in the Computer Age
The cyber arms race
Matt Gurney: U.S. military says a cyber attack means war. But with who?
The Pentagon Is Confused About How to Fight a Cyber War

So, with all the thousands of state sponsored cyberattacks unfolding 24/7/365, who are we going to attack first, China, Russia? There’s plenty of the usual suspects probing the United States’ cyberdefenses constantly, it’s hard to choose just one culprit. And what if we get the source of a cyberattack wrong? The exact origin of most of these exploits is extremely difficult to pin down. What if we mistakenly launch a missile strike on China for hacking damage that was actually caused by the Russian Mafia, how cool would that be? Probably not very cool at all.

/and, of course, when we announce a brinkmanship policy like this, and then immediately fail to back up our words with deeds, it become much more than just a joke, it manifests a profound, telltale show of national weakness

Running On Empty

Actually, we’re running beyond empty now. The United States can’t legally borrow any more money until Congress acts to raise the debt ceiling.

US government hits debt ceiling, lighting 11-week fuse

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner informed Congress on Monday that the United States has reached its legal debt limit, setting off a ticking time bomb that could explode in less than three months if lawmakers can’t bridge differences and allow more government borrowing.

In hitting the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling – the limit on how much the government can borrow – the Obama administration on Monday began temporarily halting payments to the retirement and federal pension accounts of federal workers and started borrowing from those funds, to be restored later.

Geithner sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., warning that the government can move money around for about 11 weeks but if a new debt ceiling isn’t agreed to by Aug. 2, the U.S. government could effectively default on its obligations to its creditors. He warned of “catastrophic economic consequences for citizens” unless Congress raises the debt ceiling.

An increase of about $2 trillion is expected, enough to get the issue past the 2012 elections before Congress would have to lift it again.

Republicans who control the House of Representatives vow to link raising the debt ceiling to cuts in government spending of at least equal measure. In a combative statement Monday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, upped the ante.

“As I have said numerous times, there will be no debt limit increase without serious budget reforms and significant spending cuts, cuts that are greater than any increase in the debt limit.” Boehner has called previously for $2 trillion in spending cuts as part of any deal to raise the debt ceiling.

See also:
US hits $14 trillion debt limit
US Hits Debt Ceiling, But Treasury Market Rules Out Default For Now
Deja Vu, But No Disaster: U.S. Government Hits Debt Ceiling
U.S. Hits Debt Limit, Sky Doesn’t Fall
U.S. hit debt limit today
Treasury Tapping Federal Retirement Accounts to Stave Off Default
Turbo Tim Raids Pension Plans
With Debt Limit Maxed Out, Lawmakers Hold Firm On Remedy
Rep. Jordan: U.S. won’t default if debt ceiling isn’t raised
U.S. National Debt Clock

Well, we hit the debt ceiling and, despite all the Democrat Chicken Little hysteria, the Sun didn’t explode, the seas didn’t boil, and the markets didn’t plunge thousands of points. Go figure.

/all I can say is that the Republicans had better stand firm and hold their ground this time and hold out for concrete, verifiable spending cuts that at least equal the amount of any debt limit increase

Slip Slidin’ Away

Gee, the weasel politicians in Washington continue to abdicate their responsibility and keep kicking the can down the road and the Social Security and Medicare insolvency problem keeps getting worse year after year. Go figure.

Financial Outlook Worsens for Social Security, Medicare

Social Security and Medicare’s annual checkup found that the entitlement system continues to face long-term financial challenges. The Social Security trust fund is expected to be exhausted in 2036, one year sooner than was projected last year. And the date Medicare’s hospital insurance trust fund is projected to be depleted has advanced up to 2024, five years earlier than in last year’s report. Once those dates pass, there will only be sufficient resources coming in to pay out about 77 percent of scheduled Social Security benefits and 90 percent of retirees hospital insurance costs, unless changes are made to the program.

Read the Medicare trustees’ report:

2011 ANNUAL REPORT OF THE BOARDS OF TRUSTEES OF THE FEDERAL HOSPITAL INSURANCE AND FEDERAL SUPPLEMENTARY MEDICAL INSURANCE TRUST FUNDS

See also:
Social Security Board of Trustees: Projected Trust Fund Exhaustion
One Year Sooner

Outlook Worsening for Social Security, Medicare, Trustees Say
New report warns Social Security, Medicare could run out of money even earlier than feared
Outlook for Social Security, Medicare Poor: Trustees
Medicare could run out of money sooner than previously predicted
Bleaker outlook for Social Security, Medicare
Outlook for Medicare, Social Security worsens
Government: How bad is the news about Social Security?
Medicare and Social Security Trustees report: Capitol Hill reaction
Medicare funds will be depleted in 13 years, report says

And, since we’re already into the 2012 election cycle, I wouldn’t expect Obama or Congress to step up and have the courage to make the hard, politically unpopular decisions that will have to be made in order to put Medicare and Social Security back on the path to solvency. Just look at how Paul Ryan is already being attacked for lucidly speaking truth to the demagogues. And so, next year, there’ll be another report telling us that the insolvency problem for Medicare and Social Security has gotten even worse.

/seriously, you didn’t really think you were going to collect Medicare and Social Security benefits, did you?