Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Saturday 17 September 2011

Down and down and down it goes....

... and where it lands, nobody knows!

Remember UARS? The Nasa Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite is now on its way back to Earth at a speedy 5 miles per second.

According to NASA's latest update, 'Re-entry is expected Sept. 23, plus or minus a day. The re-entry of UARS is advancing because of a sharp increase in solar activity since the beginning of this week'.

The BBC have reported this with the splendidly vague headline 'Nasa satellite UARS nearing Earth 'could land anywhere''.

Scientists have identified 26 separate pieces that could survive the fall through the earth's atmosphere, and debris could rain across an area 400-500km (250-310 miles) wide.

Where this area might be won't become clear until about two hours before it enters the atmosphere, around the 23rd. So far, all they can predict is that the impact will be somewhere between 57 degrees North and 57 degrees South - which doesn't exactly narrow it down.

Normally this kind of thing would have me glued to the computer* but it so happens that I shall be spending most of the 23rd and 24th ferrying offspring plus an assortment of wordly goods to other parts of the country; how frustrating is that?

NASA have calculated that the chances of a chunk of it actually hitting someone are 1 in 3,200, although, as they optimistically point out, no one has to date been injured by an object dropping from space. What I'd like is something a bit more practical; for example, if you see it coming, should you:
a) run like hell?
b) crouch down and cover your head with your arms?
c) call Max Clifford? After all, you're going to have a story to sell whatever happens.

Doubtless this kind of advice won't appear for fear of setting off mass panic; it's probably best not to worry and to think that, should you be unlucky enough to be on the receiving end, at least your place in history will be assured.

*Not that I'm hoping it hurts anyone, you understand - although in an idle moment or two, I have been compiling a little list of those who, should they happen to be underneath, 'they'd none of them be missed' .


  1. Bet I'm underneath it , and with my luck it will hit someone famous as well , so I'll just be a footnote

  2. I have an old air-raid shelter in the garden. Hmm...

  3. When out do not forget your helmet.

  4. Cat, on the bright side, if you are underneath it then your blog will be world famous, generating lasting fame and memorabilia.

    (I can't get comments to work at you place today, but I did enjoy your piece on horses . If that photo and its link are a representative sample of the PC album, I look forward to a series of illustrated posts on how you narrowly escaped a hideous fate at the hand/hooves/paws of assorted members of the animal kingdom.
    BTW, I can think of two fictional horses who turn out to be murderers; one in self-defence and one out of pure malice.)

    AKH - sounds like a useful thing to have; I can imagine it gives one a great sense of security. However, as Demetrius says, a tin hat may be this week's sine qua non, at least for those out and about on Friday or Saturday..


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