Space Junk Falls Around Airliner



Flaming space junk from a Russian satellite narrowly missed hitting a Chilean airliner over the Pacific Ocean, reports said Wednesday.

The pilot of a LAN Chile Airbus A340 en route to New Zealand told air traffic controllers he had seen pieces of flaming space junk falling about eight kilometres (four miles) in front of the plane and behind it, TV3 said.

The aircraft was not struck by any of the debris and later landed safely in Auckland.

Airways New Zealand, which manages New Zealand’s air traffic, said it had been warned by Russian authorities that an obsolete satellite was due to fall into the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday.

But the debris had apparently fallen into the area 12 hours earlier than the time advised by the Russians.

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority, which is responsible for air safety, said it would launch an inquiry after it was advised of the details of the incident.


No wonder the rooskies lost the space race. 12 hours is a huge error in calculation. You’d think they’d have someone monitor the situation and advise the proper governments and agencies of the change in developments - but then that would be an admission of how bad their rocket scientists are over there. Its better for them to keep quiet and hope nobody notices.


Ya, that’s what I was thinkin’. Late, that’s really bad. At least better 12 hours early than late. Ouch! That’s like giving a big rocket to a little kid who doesn’t know how to handle it. He’s going to destroy something or start a fire.


The west is still learning about the imperfections of the Soviet space program all these years after the fall of the Soviet Union. During their space program, the Soviets had a “perfect” record. Very few mistakes made were ever revealed.


Revealed is the right word. There is good evidence that there were many unreported incidents in their space program and that several cosmonauts died.


Remember, these are the same people whohad the resources to report the Challenger disaster immediately, but failed to notify their own people of the Chernobyl accident and subsequent fallout for two weeks. A day (many, actually) late and a ruble short.


Don’t forget the Russian navy’s record for transparency when a submarine has problems…


I’d like to know how the A340 pilot could quantify how far away the object was from the airplane when it fell. 8km, 4miles? Are you SURE it wasn’t 10km? or maybe 30? I see falling meteors and satellites almost every time I fly at night, they sure seem close, but are actually a few hundred km away.


I’ll tell you how: It makes for a much more dramatic story, that’s how!! I was thinking that too; but then, not being a pilot, I thought maybe you guys have some sort of improved sense of depth perception that would make him an accurate judge of this distance. Guess I was right…the first time, I mean. :wink:


As the ol’ man would say, “He put his Mk.1 eyeball on it…”


Thanks, but nah… His EWO read it as a threat on the tactical radar and calculated the distance preparatory to locking a Sidewinder on it. :wink:


air traffic controllers he had seen pieces of flaming space junk falling about eight kilometres (four miles) in front of the plane and behind it

Not to mention the junk that fell behind him. Now that’s some amazing depth perception.


Agreed Mag, the “behind it” caught my eye quickly. How did he see flaming debris falling behind the plane?


My guess would be that the debris “behind” the plane was behind and to the side of the a/c; i.e. in the field of visibility from the side window.

Makes more sense than my second theory: The A340 was moonlighting as a mid-air refueler, and the boom operator reported it. :wink:


You guys forgot all about the big-ass rear view mirrors :laughing:


I’m sure it showed on his TCAS–

“traffic - six o-clock, four miles, above…no, same, er… decending.?..?.”


I wonder how long ago the Russians started equipping their satellites with Mode S transponders?


A transponder for each piece of debris? If the Russians could’ve predicted HOW it would break up, then surely they could’ve predicted WHEN it would fall…


details, details…

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