Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Hypothetical Situation?

Let's say you're one of the greatest presidents who ever lived. You launched a war against the greatest enemy your nation has ever faced and achieved victory in a few short days. After five years of mopping up operations, things are looking up, you may have even reached the point where State Department personnel can walk around the Embassy complex with only light body armor.

Then you're told that one of your "spy" satellites is falling to Earth. It's a big "spy" satellite, the size of a bus (let's just say it has a big freaking camera the size of, oh, the trajectory-adjustment stage and warheads of a Minuteman missile--I'm just using the trajectory-adjustment stage and warheads of a Minuteman missile for comparison purposes here--we all know it would be a violation of international law to place a nuke in orbit).

So anyway, this bus-sized "spy" satellite is falling to Earth. And although much of it will burn up in the atmosphere, big pieces of the "camera," perhaps even those containing plutonium or the inertial guidance system, will remain intact. These pieces could injure some one. What do you do?

It's an easy answer, really. You'd want to intercept it and blow it up into pieces small enough that they will be totally consumed in re-entry.

Fortunately it worked this time.

However, it's basically the same principle that was used to solve another large object removal problem back in the seventies.

Take a few minutes to watch this video and you'll see what I mean: