Gravity - Oh So Predictable

8:53 PM

The concept of gravity is not all that hard to comprehend. It's what keeps us clinging to this rock we live upon, and prevents us from floating out into space:

According to this Wiki, "Modern physics describes gravitation using the general theory of relativity, in which gravitation is a consequence of the curvature of spacetime which governs the motion of inertial objects. The strength of the gravitational field is numerically equal to the acceleration of objects under its influence, and its value at the Earth's surface, denoted g, is approximately expressed as the standard average: g = 9.8 m/s2 = 32.2 ft/s2. This means that, ignoring air resistance, an object falling freely near the earth's surface increases its velocity with 9.8 m/s (32.2 ft/s or 22 mph) for each second of its descent."
Translated, this means that if you drop a bowling ball over your foot, you can expect severe pain in less then one second.

With this in mind, I am surely not the only reader of this blog who contemplated gravity when reading about the massive collision of two satellites this past week. The crash created gigantic debris fields that anyone could logically assume would eventually fall to Earth from 490 miles up where the crash occurred:
I read lots of blogs, aviation news and traditional news sites every day, and after starting to follow this story, my antennas were "up" looking for anyone talking about all this space junk falling from the sky. I pondered quietly to myself that it would be seriously bad to fly your Cessna through a bunch of this flaming crap as it headed towards a cornfield to carve some sort of bizarro crop circle. From that nasty thought, I pondered what would happen if this space garbage whacked a perfectly good airliner.
Now you'd think that with NASA, the DoD and of course FAA on the job, if this stuff was going to come back to Earth in a rage of fire and drama – through busy public airspace – that someone, anyone, would have issued some sort of NOTAM or warning. I saw nothing as of Friday...either this crap was still up there, or it already burned up on re-entry.

So tonight, I see a couple of stories on the web so crazy, I had to search all over to verify they were not just urban myths. First, this story published Friday [the 13th...hence my suspicions] is from a Canadian site:
"Space debris puts Alberta officials on high alert – Rural Alberta dodged impact with Russian space debris, according to the province's emergency officials. The North American Aerospace Defence Command was tracking the debris, estimated to be about the size of a school bus, after 10 a.m. local time on Friday. At first the debris was set to fall in Calgary, but officials later determined it would strike near Kneehill or Wheatland County, about 100 kilometers east of Calgary."
School bus sized space junk falling from the sky, you say? Well, you'd think that would certainly prompt a NOTAM. Oh wait...it did:
FDC 9/5902 FDC SPECIAL NOTICE .. EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. AIRCRAFT ARE ADVISED THAT A POTENTIAL HAZARD MAY OCCUR DUE TO REENTRY OF SATELLITE DEBRIS INTO THE EARTHS ATMOSPHERE. FURTHER NOTAMS WILL BE ISSUED IF MORE INFORMATION BECOMES AVAILABLE. IN THE INTEREST OF FLIGHT SAFETY, IT IS CRITICAL THAT ALL PILOTS/FLIGHT CREW MEMBERS REPORT ANY OBSERVED FALLING SPACE DEBRIS TO THE APPROPRIATE ATC FACILITY TO INCLUDE POSITION, ALTITUDE, TIME, AND DIRECTION OF DEBRIS OBSERVED. FAA HEADQUARTERS, AIR TRAFFIC SYSTEMS OPERATIONS SECURITY, 202-493-5107, IS THE FAA COORDINATION FACILITY. WIE UNTIL UFN. CREATED: 14 FEB 15:48 2009
I found this NOTAM on enough real flight planning sites to confirm it wasn't a hoax. And guess what, they were right...the sky really was falling. This is from a TV station in Central Texas:
"Fiery debris rains down over Central Texas – Law enforcement officers from Central Texas to New Mexico have been investigating a number reports of flaming, falling debris Sunday afternoon. Around 11 a.m. Sunday, News Channel 25 was flooded with calls from viewers who say they saw fiery streaks in the sky. Several people also reported their houses shook from the noise. An FAA spokesman said the shaking could be attributed to a possible sonic boom from the falling debris."
Man, you just never know what each new day will bring. Just when you think you have flying figured out, now we have to dodge flaming chunks of obliterated satellite the size of a 36-passenger Bluebird. I have a hunch that every agency charged with monitoring this falling junk knew full well it was coming our way soon after the crash. But they held off on releasing the news that thousands of fireballs from space were headed towards Mainstreet, USA, and finally released a NOTAM on Saturday when they knew this stuff was actually inbound.

Not a very good way to build public trust. What is coming our way next week "they" aren't telling about? Jeez, Louise, now I sound like some sort of conspiracy theory whackjob.

Oh, no...are those black helicopters I see hovering outside? Quick, get...foil...hat.

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