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Space Litter To Hit Earth Tomorrow

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the leave-only-memories-take-only-footprints dept.

Space 443

A refrigerator-sized tank of toxic ammonia, tossed from the international space station last year, is expected to hit earth tomorrow afternoon or evening. The 1,400-pound object was deliberately jettisoned — by hand — from the ISS's robot arm in July 2007. Since the time of re-entry is uncertain, so is the location. "NASA expects up to 15 pieces of the tank to survive the searing hot temperatures of re-entry, ranging in size from about 1.4 ounces (40 grams) to nearly 40 pounds (17.5 kilograms). ... [T]he largest pieces could slam into the Earth's surface at about 100 mph (161 kph). ...'If anybody found a piece of anything on the ground Monday morning, I would hope they wouldn't get too close to it,' [a NASA spokesman] said."

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443 comments

Cloudy (5, Funny)

DeadPixels (1391907) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597785)

With a chance of toxic ammonia-coated metal chunks?

Re:Cloudy (1)

felipekk (1007591) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598143)

17 kg at 160 kph could hit the earth anywhere?

What if it hits SOMETHING, like a car in the highway or an airplane?

Re:Cloudy (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598339)

YOU, traveling in a 2000 kg car at 90 km/h, what if you hit someone?

It's all a balance of the risk, the possible consequences and the benefits.

Also the chances of it dropping into the car or airplane of the guy in charge at NASA? Rather slim ;D

Re:Cloudy (1)

felipekk (1007591) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598399)

The difference is that I am in control of the car (most of the time, anyway).

Who's controlling the direction of that debris?

Re:Cloudy (1, Troll)

apparently (756613) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598433)

YOU, traveling in a 2000 kg car at 90 km/h, what if you hit someone?

Right, because there's no difference between a car being *driven* on a designated roadway, and debris uncontrollably headed in an unknown direction. Your critical-thinking skills are...lacking.

"toxic ammonia"? (5, Funny)

penginkun (585807) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597787)

As opposed to that non-toxic, safe-to-eat, oh-so-good-for-you ammonia they sell down at the cleaning supplies store?

Re:"toxic ammonia"? (4, Interesting)

vidarh (309115) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597837)

Heh. A lot of Scandinavian candy contains ammonium chloride...

I've yet to meet any non-Scandinavian that likes it, though apparently they sell they stuff in the Netherlands and Germany too.

Re:"toxic ammonia"? (5, Informative)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597891)

Ammonium chloride is not even slightly like ammonia, in the same way that table salt is not even slightly like chlorine gas.

Re:"toxic ammonia"? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25597983)

Here's hoping someone undoes the Flamebait mod in meta-moderation. Is idiocy a prerequisite for getting mod points?

Re:"toxic ammonia"? (2)

karlandtanya (601084) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598295)

Sammiak?

I worked with a Dutchman in Turkey for a couple weeks and he brought "salty licorice".

I munched about half the bag on the first day.
If I ate that much NaCl, I'd be miserable for two days.
Wonderful stuff--my whole head would turn into a licorice fog with every bite.

BTW, If you live in the US and like that sort of thing, "World Market" sells salty licorice fish.

Re:"toxic ammonia"? (4, Funny)

DittoBox (978894) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598317)

Windex is a lot less bad for you than cat piss. Believe me.

Of course ingesting either one is a seriously FUBUAR proposition, but I digress.

Current data on object (4, Informative)

lecithin (745575) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597799)

Re:Current data on object (5, Funny)

bruins01 (992422) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597987)

Your sig takes on a whole new meaning in light of that quotation in the summary.

Thanks (1)

DaveAtFraud (460127) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598461)

Not the clearest map but it looks like I need to check how things are going tomorrow evening before I walk the dog. I could be wrong but it looks like the most likely place for it to come down is over the central U.S. and I live near Denver, CO.

Cheers,
Dave

Could/Should we push all the junk back at earth? (2, Interesting)

TheLazySci-FiAuthor (1089561) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597811)

Assuming a capable laser system, would a gentle laser push towards earth be a good way to clean up space junk? Would away from earth be better?

A laser which would simply annihilate the junk would be admittedly cooler, but could de-orbit be accomplished with much less power?

Re:Could/Should we push all the junk back at earth (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597851)

Assuming a capable laser system, would a gentle laser push towards earth be a good way to clean up space junk? Would away from earth be better?

Didn't our military blast a re-entering spy satellite to pieces a few months ago to avoid accidents and protect secrets? Why couldn't they use the same technique?
       

Re:Could/Should we push all the junk back at earth (1)

Teun (17872) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597935)

Why would they, the pieces mentioned in TFA are very small already.

Re:Could/Should we push all the junk back at earth (2, Insightful)

WillKemp (1338605) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598003)

Why would they, the pieces mentioned in TFA are very small already.

Try saying that after a 17kg chunk hits you on the head at 100mph!

Re:Could/Should we push all the junk back at earth (2, Funny)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598355)

I'm pretty sure I know how to find out where it will land.

*reconfigures the cell towers to do continuous triangulation on Ellen Muth [wikipedia.org]*

Re:Could/Should we push all the junk back at earth (1)

TheLazySci-FiAuthor (1089561) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597945)

Assuming a capable laser system, would a gentle laser push towards earth be a good way to clean up space junk? Would away from earth be better?

Didn't our military blast a re-entering spy satellite to pieces a few months ago to avoid accidents and protect secrets? Why couldn't they use the same technique?

     

That's a good question. It seems to me that blasting creates more, albeit, smaller space junk. I think a benefit is that a blast is roughly going to tend towards spherical, meaning that pieces will be scattered into space, back towards the atmosphere. Of course, some pieces would simply find higher or lower orbits.

Blasting probably takes less energy overall, but pushing might be the most complete way of disposing the junk.

Re:Could/Should we push all the junk back at earth (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598279)

Blasting it during reentry creates smaller pieces, increasing the probability that all of the pieces will burn up during reentry before they make it to the ground. That alone is a good reason to blast large pieces like this if they are approaching atmospheric reentry.

Re:Could/Should we push all the junk back at earth (1)

hoytak (1148181) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598345)

Blasting these things is as good an idea as beached whale disposal using dynamite [youtube.com].

A really small piece of space debris + reasonable speed + very sensitive satellite equipment in a sensitive orbit = someone seriously ticked. The general goal is to minimize the quantity of space debris, as even a golf ball sized hunk can put most satellites out of commission. Quality is not the issue.

Re:Could/Should we push all the junk back at earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25597989)

"Commander! Our supersecret toxic chemical from the labs on the international space station will hit the earth at an unknown location soon! Should we blast it out of the sky so those damned commies can't get hold of it?"

"What is the codename of this chemical, lieutenant?"

"Ammonium"

"..."

Re:Could/Should we push all the junk back at earth (2, Informative)

Teun (17872) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598001)

According to the article it was "deliberately jettisoned â" by hand â" from the ISS's robot arm in July 2007."

The problem is not the desintegration in earth's atmosphere but the uncertainty about where it's going to happen.

Pushing it by a laser would certainly be a more expensive solution but not do anything about the real problem.

Re:Could/Should we push all the junk back at earth (5, Funny)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598075)

They don't have a big enough shark to mount the laser on at the moment.

Re:Could/Should we push all the junk back at earth (1, Informative)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598425)

Didn't the american military blast a re-entering spy satellite to pieces a few months ago to see if and tell all others that it could shoot down whatever satellite they wanted to? Ignoring space war treaties? Why couldn't they use the same technique?

Fixed that for you.
The answer? Probably that you end up with even more junk and smaller pieces harder to track.

Re:Could/Should we push all the junk back at earth (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25597941)

A laser which would simply annihilate the junk would be admittedly cooler

It would be cooler, but then you're violating the law of conservation of mass*, which is pretty hard to do with just a laser.

(*yes, I know it's conservation of mass and energy, and that you can convert mass into energy in a nuclear reaction)

Re:Could/Should we push all the junk back at earth (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597975)

A push away from earth would probably be easier, as you could do it with a ground-based laser. I imagine such a push could make the object's orbit elliptical enough that it would re-enter sooner than it otherwise would.

Re:Could/Should we push all the junk back at earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25598115)

What is this "gentle laser push" of which you speak? Anyone able to show me a laser with a recoil that you can feel? No?

Re:Could/Should we push all the junk back at earth (1)

TheLazySci-FiAuthor (1089561) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598229)

What is this "gentle laser push" of which you speak? Anyone able to show me a laser with a recoil that you can feel? No?

I believe that an object can be nudged by lasers. It's a very weak nudge, but it's real.

The idea would be to first locate the space junk - no small task - and then illuminate it with a low-powered laser beam.

Given a few weeks, the target should accumulate some velocity from the nudge.

I think the nudge exerted is affected greatly by the material and it's reflectivity so this is quite possibly not a practical solution. Still, I just thought of it as a potential way to help the remedy the space junk problem.

Re:Could/Should we push all the junk back at earth (2, Funny)

ZXDunny (1376265) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598271)

Let's face it, you just want to build an effing big laser and fire it at stuff. It's ok, you can admit it, nobody will think any the worse of you.

Re:Could/Should we push all the junk back at earth (1)

DiegoBravo (324012) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598325)

I don't understand. Why just don't detonate the "refrigerator" with a bomb while in path to the earth so the remaining parts disintegrate as normal meteorites? BTW, for bigger things (like nuclear trash) how difficult/costly (in energy) would be to send that things to the sun?

clue ? (0)

maharg (182366) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597819)

does anyone have a clue where this stuff will land, or how much damage one of the larger pieces will cause ?

Re:clue ? (0)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597849)

If any pieces actually land it will be somewhere under the orbit of the ISS. A large one might dent your car in the extremely improbable case that one should hit it. There is no possibility, of course, that any of the ammonia will reach the ground.

Re:clue ? (4, Informative)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597999)

A large one might dent your car in the extremely improbable case that one should hit it.

TFA says the largest piece could be about 40 pounds and hit at 100 mph. That wouldn't dent your car, it would totally destroy it.

Re:clue ? (2, Interesting)

nacturation (646836) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598191)

TFA says the largest piece could be about 40 pounds and hit at 100 mph. That wouldn't dent your car, it would totally destroy it.

If you're driving along a highway at 100mph, I have a hard time imaging that hitting a 40 pound child would totally destroy a car. Serious damage, sure.

Re:clue ? (5, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598253)

A 40 pound child is a little more...yielding than a 40 pound chunk of metal. Also, the 40 pound chunk of metal would presumably be falling on the car from above, not hitting the car head-on. So yah, it may not actually reduce the entire car to a smoking crater, but it would likely total it.

So, while I have no doubt you have plentiful experience striking 40 pound children with vehicles, I'm not sure that experience is directly applicable to the situation at hand.

Re:clue ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25598287)

What about a 40 pound compacted child? The collisions are fairly similar then, as it's more a matter of instantaneous force/area rather than momentum absorption which would be causing the most damage.

Re:clue ? (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598373)

It depends on what part of the car is struck. The windshield or the roof above a passenger, bad news. The trunk or a rear fender, body damage, maybe a tire destroyed and some suspension damage. The front of the car could ruin the engine.

Re:clue ? (1)

Briareos (21163) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598415)

A 40 pound child is a little more...yielding than a 40 pound chunk of metal. Also, the 40 pound chunk of metal would presumably be falling on the car from above, not hitting the car head-on. So yah, it may not actually reduce the entire car to a smoking crater, but it would likely total it.

Here's a visualisation for those that can't quite imagine it... [youtube.com] *ducks & runs*

np: Vladislav Delay - Part 07 (Anima)

Re:clue ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25598349)

Umm, are you seriously comparing hitting a sack of (mostly) water with the front of your car, with a solid piece of metal of the same mass hitting the *top* of your car?

Try to imagine how the energy dissipates. It will be *very* different.

Maybe if you compared hitting your car with a 40lb cannonball fired at 100MPH.

Re:clue ? (4, Funny)

emandres (857332) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598427)

Conservation of momentum - the effect of a car traveling at 100mph hitting a child is not the same as a child traveling at 100mph hitting a car. If you can follow the unformatted math:
M_car * V_car = (~1000 kg)(44.7 m/s) ~= 44700 kg*m/s
M_child * V_child = (~20 kg)(44.7 m/s) ~= 894 kg*m/s
The fact that the child is a lot more *squishy* than the car has little to do with it. If you want a comparable situation, think of throwing a turkey at 100mph at a parked car. I guarantee you that car's not going to come out looking to good.

Re:clue ? (1)

Snowblindeye (1085701) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597913)

does anyone have a clue where this stuff will land, or how much damage one of the larger pieces will cause ?

From the article:

Exactly where the tank will inevitably fall is currently unknown, though it is expected to re-enter Earth's atmosphere Sunday afternoon or later that evening, NASA officials said.

Re:clue ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25598063)

Thanks, but that doesn't answer the question. Where's it supposed to land?

Re:clue ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25597971)

does anyone have a clue where this stuff will land

Yes, somewhere on the blue or yellow line on this map [reentrynews.com]. If you refresh the page later, then uncertainty may decrease. This isn't rocket science, just reentry science.

Re:clue ? (3, Funny)

exley (221867) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597979)

I don't expect for people to RTFA here, but at least RTFS. It's not rocket science, you know.

Re:clue ? (1)

Teun (17872) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598017)

does anyone have a clue where this stuff will land, or how much damage one of the larger pieces will cause ?

I understand a proverbial Slashdotter does not read the article but you didn't even see the summary!

New House? (1)

adosch (1397357) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597829)

Wonder how much money I could get from NASA for this intentional, reckless abandonment of government waste comes shooting into the side of my house? HUGE payout!

Re:New House? (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597899)

Wonder how much money I could get from NASA

What I'm thinking is eBay. Can NASA claim ownership if it lands in my cow pasture?

Direction? (1)

SonicSpike (242293) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597919)

Why would it slam into the side of your house? It would probably come from above, right?

Re:Direction? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25598055)

Why would it slam into the side of your house? It would probably come from above, right?

Earth rotates.

Re:Direction? (1)

Sasayaki (1096761) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598187)

Because it has momentum from the orbit. There's a reason why it burns up in the atmosphere- it's moving damn fast.

Bad Precedent (1, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597831)

Kid: "Mom, roll down the window so I can toss my dirty Kleenex out."

Mom: "No, son, that is not polite."

Kid: "But NASA is dumping a big barrel of ammonia stuff back to Earth, and it may kill somebody."

Did anyone else think.... (4, Interesting)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597855)

about how cool this is?

First, here is NASA being about as open about it as they can get. We dumped a toxic container out, and it might hit your house or spouse or both. Possible reason for joy?

Second, 50 years ago there was probably only two people on the entire planet that could have thought such a safety announcement would be put out with all the fame and glory of a news item about a fender bender in the WalMart parking lot!

I kind of look forward to news reports like this:

Space weather warning: Launch News- Today in the Southern Americas regions, the likelihood of debris showers is at Threat Level Orange. Expected drop zone is 15 miles off the coast of Peru as the StarLiner "Moses" launches for Alpha Centauri.
Between the hours of 13:00 GMT and 23:50 GMT, some pieces of the launch platform are expected to survive the searing heat of re-entry. It is possible for pieces up to 57 kilograms to reach the Earth's surface. Please contact the local constabulary for concerns about livestock. Normal insurance claim processes apply.

You all wanted flying cars. I want star cruisers and Earth 2.0.

Re:Did anyone else think.... (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597917)

I want star cruisers and Earth 2.0.

You already got Earth 2 [imdb.com] back in 1994. Too bad it kinda sucked.

Re:Did anyone else think.... (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597967)

That was the Hollywood version, and the cheap Hollywood version at that. I want the real one, with funky lizards that talk and stuff like that.

Nasa Suess (4, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597973)

A star is falling
With nasty goo
It's kinda sticky
It smells like poo

It may hit a house
It may hit a mouse
And if you don't look out
It will hit your spouse

But you can't duck
And you can't run
'Cause it's falling faster
Than a Bullet from a Gun

It might hit with a thud
Or a squishy "smoosh"
It may make a hole
Or knock out a tooth

Quickly Quickly!
Find somebody to sue
For the fast and smelly
Outer space goo!

Re:Did anyone else think.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25598147)

If when you think of debris reentry you think "danger" instead of "light show", then logically you should also hide in a bunker during meteor showers. The two are pretty much the same

Re:Did anyone else think.... (1)

oblivionboy (181090) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598275)

If I remember correctly, this was part of a Max Headroom episode, where they had old satelite debries falling from space, kind of like an intense meteor shower. The relation, is that it seemed to happen during like "satelite debries" season, and was announced on the weather in the episode. It was a bit goofy, because everyone took to using these flourescent umbrellas while walking outside, which seemed to me to be a bit of underkill. And this was just twenty minutes into the future...

Ouch (0)

cervo (626632) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597861)

Hope it doesn't fall on me! I mean this seems like a dangerous experiment, I hope NASA will pay if any property is damaged by this experiment since it is deliberate. I would think they are legally responsible if anyone dies or any property is damaged. Any lawyers in the thread? :)

Re:Ouch (1)

Teun (17872) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598081)

Hope it doesn't fall on me! I mean this seems like a dangerous experiment

Where do you pick up the notion this is an experiment?

It is since the very first space shots part of the design that what goes up comes down.
Only loads that are designed to leave earth's gravitational attraction and go to the moon, other planets or even further will not fall back.

why shouldn't we get close to it?? (1)

Hans Lehmann (571625) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597865)

"If anybody found a piece of anything on the ground Monday morning, I would hope they wouldn't get too close to it,' [a NASA spokesman] said."

Why the hell not? If I find it first... it's mine.

Re:why shouldn't we get close to it?? (1)

Xeth (614132) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598307)

Because NASA doesn't want to go to the trouble of scraping your corpse off it during the salvage mission.

Landfall projection? (1)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597873)

I wonder if they can track where this stuff will end up falling to earth. Given the earth is 70% ocean, there is a good chance that it wont hit land. Still. the idea of a refridgerator sized piece of toxic metal slamming down, perhaps anywhere, does make one a little nervous. Still ones chance of getting hit by lightning is greater than having this fall on top of you.

Re:Landfall projection? (3, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597911)

Natural space junk of similar mass hits the Earth all the time. When was the last time you heard of anyone getting killed by a meteorite?

Re:Landfall projection? (3, Interesting)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598083)

It's rare but being hit by metorites *does* happen. I can't find a recorded instance since 2002 (although there's a nice picture of a destroyed car [nasa.gov] from 1992 which probably doesn't count as it didn't hit a person.

Of course by the time it hits someone it's normally little more than a very hot pebble, and causes little more than some burning.

If something the size of a fridge hit you you'd feel a little bit more than a burning sensation!

Re:Landfall projection? (3, Informative)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598351)

> It's rare but being hit by metorites *does* happen.

That's my point. six billion people, it's rare that any are hit by all that natural junk, and you are worried about this?

> If something the size of a fridge hit you you'd feel a little bit more than a burning
> sensation!

NASA says no pieces larger than 40lb.

Tracking the object to avoid danger? (1, Redundant)

Snowblindeye (1085701) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597885)

From TFA:

NASA and the U.S. Space Surveillance Network are tracking the object [...] to make sure it does not endanger people on Earth.

I wonder how tracking it is going to help if it crashes thru someones ceiling at 100mph.

I know the chances are low, but still.

Re:Tracking the object to avoid danger? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25598117)

That way they can use the GPS info linked to your cell phone to call you and shout "OH FUCK RUN"

And you thought citizen tracking couldn't be used for good!

Re:Tracking the object to avoid danger? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598359)

> I know the chances are low, but still.

The defenses you already have in place for meteorites will protect you.

Collectors beware (2, Insightful)

zakezuke (229119) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597887)

If anybody found a piece of anything on the ground Monday morning, I would hope they wouldn't get too close to it

Yes, I hope they don't, but in reality if someone encounters a piece of space trash, and see it for space trash, they will pick it up thinking it might be worth something.

Re:Collectors beware (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598383)

And there is no good reason that they shouldn't. It won't be dangerous and it will be worth something.

It'd be going straight on ebay (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597895)

You could probably get a fair amount for something like that and then I could that money for something useful like coke and whores.

Can I be the first to say (1)

Cally (10873) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597905)

..that if I find a piece of anything tomorrow, keeping away is the LAST thing I'll be doing.

thangyewverymuchyoureamarvellousaudiencelaydisgenlmn

TFA Problems (2, Insightful)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597965)

"A refrigerator-sized tank of toxic ammonia, tossed from the international space station last year, is expected to hit earth tomorrow afternoon or evening."

Written for maximum impact at the expense of accuracy. Frinstance: Toxic ammonia vs. what? Inert, organism-friendly ammonia? The modifier is as useful as adding "wet" to water.

The distinction would matter if the tank were going to land intact. As TFA states it'll break up during reentry. Any ammonia inside will be explosively released due to reentry heat increasing the pressure, the fact that the first break will destroy any aerodynamic stability and rip the tank and components to shreds nearly instantly, and/or the ammonia being sucked out through the first breach by the low pressure at high altitude and the vacuum created by the air speed.

But that makes the spokescritter's point re: finding pieces moot and the comment mostly FUD. Any pieces will be chunks of metal, possibly with sharp edges but most likely rounded by reentry heat.

To their credit, unlike many previous articles, TFA makes the attempt to indicate the probability of sea vs. land impact rather than run with the FUD hype of the latter alone.

Re:TFA Problems (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598079)

Agreed, the ammonia will be long gone. It's a gas at any habitable temperature.

The odds of debris hitting someone (or damaging their property) are far less than the odds of a chunk of ice from a commercial jet's wing (or holding tank) hitting someone.

A tinfoil hat moment... (3, Interesting)

pongo000 (97357) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598053)

...'If anybody found a piece of anything on the ground Monday morning, I would hope they wouldn't get too close to it,' [a NASA spokesman] said."

Hmm...and why might that be? Some stray ammonia molecules might still be clinging to said pieces? I read somewhere (probably here) that meteorites are actually cool to the touch if they arrive on the ground intact. I don't recall pieces of Columbia starting fires upon impact.

So if temperature isn't the issue, why would a NASA spokesman make such an inane statement?

Andromeda strain (3, Funny)

rossdee (243626) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598139)

There mught be some alien microoganism clinging to the debris, that could clot all your blood in seconds (unless you're a wino with an ulcer taking asprin...)

Re:Andromeda strain (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598335)

haha that was the worst movie ever. radioactive contamination would be the most likely reason for not wanting people to touch it.

Re:A tinfoil hat moment... (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598197)

Even if it were chock full of ammonia... so what? I've got a litre of it under my sink. Maybe "toxic ammonia" isn't actually ammonia? Maybe NASA just wants their metal pieces back? Maybe NASA is afraid someone will accidentally trip, spilling the jug of bleach they were carrying all over the ammonia leaking space chunks and hang around to breathe deeply of the pretty green gas that results?

Re:A tinfoil hat moment... (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598423)

The tank most likely contained anhydrous ammonia rather than the dilute water solution you have. Of course, if there is any left in the tank it will obviously all evaporate when the tank bursts at high altitude, but you can't expect a PR flack to know that (or to have sense enough to ask).

An important detail (3, Interesting)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598067)

There's something important that the summary ignored. (surprise, surprise) If you RTFA, you'll learn that the tank is filled with "toxic ammonia coolant." That means that the contents are very good at absorbing heat; else they'd be no good as a coolant. And, we all know that reentry generates lots and lots of heat. I wonder if anybody at NASA knows how much pressure that tank can hold and how likely it is to burst long before it reaches the ground.

Re:An important detail (4, Funny)

Xeth (614132) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598343)

I wonder if anybody at NASA knows how much pressure that tank can hold and how likely it is to burst long before it reaches the ground.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say... yes, someone probably does.

I blame the vogons (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598069)

Don't believe NASA. They're in the pocket of the vogons, who are targeting key computer installations at an undisclosed location. ... just as we were about to enter the year of Linux on the desktop! That would have allowed us to form a global beowulf cluster which would finally be able to calculate the number 42, along with a proof that it indeed is the right answer.

Damn vogons and their toxic ammonia. You know what this means, right? Keep a towel handy, and don't keep your laptop in your lap. There's a giant task ahead of you and Trillian.

Hrmm... (5, Funny)

hack slash (1064002) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598119)

When this refrigerator sized chunk hits the ground and finally stops rolling, will it open and Indiana Jones falls out?

Strange warning. (2, Insightful)

karlandtanya (601084) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598311)

If anybody found a piece of anything on the ground Monday morning, I would hope they wouldn't get too close to it

Why the concern? By the time it's on the ground, it's stopped, all the ammonia has boiled off, and if it's still hot, it'll cool off pretty quickly? What's the danger? Is there some green goop on it that will turn you into the blob?

No Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25598391)

The Americans have set a precedent for using missiles to destroy dangerous objects falling from space. In their great benevalence, they will no doubt do the same again and Save The World (Good Guys Only Of Course) In The Nick Of Time (TM)

Sure the odds are.... (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598403)

...astronomical(literally), but anyone check to see if there's a line in Vegas already taking wagers on where said chunkage is going to land? They'll lay money on damn near anything you know...

Wonder what the chances are of being hit by one?

Probably have to refer to the infinite improbability generator for that...

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