16 February 2008

“The Hydrazine Rationale Just Doesn’t Hold Up”

The most incredible science fiction and fantasy story of the week, according to Noah Shachtman's analysis in Wired's Danger Room, is the Bush-Cheney administration's stated rationale to try shooting down a US satellite.

There's a small but real risk that the hydrazine tank could rupture, releasing a "toxic gas" over a "populated area," causing a "risk to human life." . . . [However,] the space shuttle Columbia [did] have a similar tank, which survived re-entry, with no toxic gas cloud. Several other hydrazine-laced objects have also crashed into the atmosphere, with no ill effects.
And from history to math:
"The hydrazine tank is a 1-meter sphere containing about 400 liters of hydrazine. The stated hazard area is about 2 hectares, something like 1/10,000,000,000 of the area under the orbit," he [a military satellite observer] adds. ["]The potential for actual harm in unbelievably small. Which means the hydrazine rationale just doesn't hold up, literally not within orders of magnitude."
Alternative explanations for the White House decision include having a high-profile (and unfairly easy) way to show off missile-defense systems, protecting secret technology in the satellite, and sending a message to other nations.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

I think it's so funny you posted on this, J.L. I've been thinking about this event all week. It's just so terribly ridiculous.

My thoughts: Bush has fallen is so low right now that he thinks shooting a satellite out of the sky may improve his image here at home. He's really just that desperate.

10 more months to go! I'm almost optimistic.