Thursday, December 09, 2004

This Just In

The legacy of rockets in southern California continues in many ways, not the least of which is the pollution of the Western landscape. For the effects of rocket fuel stored and used in 1950s rockets on today's families who drink water from the Colorado River (pretty much all of us in California, read this CNN article about how the chemical perchlorate pollutes much of the lower Colorado River -- the main water source for 20 million people across the Southwest -- and has forced the shutdown of hundreds of wells in California.

Rockets scarred land and sky in our race to space. Thousands of nuts, bolts, gloves and other debris from space missions form an orbiting garbage dump around Earth, presenting a hazard to spacecraft. Some of the bits and pieces scream along at 17,500 mph. There are 8,927 officially tracked man-made objects up there, or an estimated 4 million pounds of stuff. One of those pieces has my name written on it, and my brother's, the handiwork of our father, who took us to the hangar to see the nose cone they were going to blast off on one of his Atlas rockets. He had our names written on the nose cone and said it would orbit nearly forevever -- or at least, a long, long time.

People now, however, worry that it isn't long enough. Objects of only one centimeter can hurt you if they fall out of orbit and back to earth and, say, on your head. Of course, my dad once hit Cuba with some space junk from a rocket's first stage, and he thought nothing of it. Castro thought otherwise, but that story is in my book ROCKET LESSONS, and I'll save it for another post.

For a full list of garbage in space and who put it there, as well as a little space junk game you can play while waiting to get hit on the head, visit this link.

Will you get hit on the head? Write and tell me if you do. And be careful about your tap water.

Have a meteoric day!