What's happening at the
Monday 21 Aug 2017 | 09:28 | SYDNEY
Monday 21 Aug 2017 | 09:28 | SYDNEY

Satellite fireworks soon



20 February 2008 09:19

I have an opinion piece in today's Australian on the geo-political fallout from America's decision to shoot down a malfunctioning spy satellite; the first attempt at an intercept will occur on Thursday. A couple of additional notes on the piece. First, a friend has pointed out an annoying factual error (made by me, not the paper): satellites travel faster than missile warheads, not slower; that's how they stay in orbit rather than falling back to earth. Second, I more or less endorse one US justification for the shootdown: the possible dangers to public health from the satellite's fuel. A number of observers have argued this is bogus, and I believe them when they say the chances of anyone getting hurt are really small. Yet I can easily see how such calculations might not look so comforting from the Oval Office. Beijing and Moscow are against this operation, but imagine their high dudgeon if the satellite fell on one of their cities. Pretty unlikely, sure, but I can see why President Bush would not want to take the chance.