Sputnikfest 2014


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Sunday, May 12, 2013

The One.  The Only.  Sputnikfest.
Space Debris Basics: The Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies (CORDS) defines Space Debris as “material that is in orbit as the result of space missions, but is no longer serving any function.” 
There are others who have claimed to have recovered Sputnik satellite debris.  In the Spring of 1962 a shepherd claimed to have recovered Sputnik debris in the Scottish Highlands.  What he found was later identified as part of a “Moby Dick” - a high altitude spy balloon launched by the US to photograph sensitive sites in the Soviet Union. 
Bob Morgan says parts of Sputnik I fell into his father’s backyard in Encino, California on the morning of December 8, 1957.  The thirteen pieces of metal and plastic (“okay, seriously … plastic?”) were said to be “glowing so bright that you couldn’t look at it with your naked eye” – so they
“grabbed some sunglasses* until this thing had cooled down” then gathered up the pieces and stored them in a box for almost 50 years.  The experts are skeptical that the artifacts are actually part of Sputnik I, but according to a 2007 article in the New York Times – there is a chance that they could be part of one of the booster rockets used to put Sputnik I into orbit.

According to CORDS, in the last 50 years more than 5,400 metric tons of orbital debris have survived re-entry.  One person has actually been struck by a piece!  Lottie Williams of Tulsa, Oklahoma was hit by what was confirmed to be a piece of a Delta rocket.  Fortunately it was a relatively small piece, not traveling very fast, and she was not harmed.  
CORDS has compiled a list of 68 verified occurrences of “Recovered Reentry Debris” from 1960 to
present day.  In May of 1963 a piece of debris “believed to be part of a Soviet spacecraft” was recovered 200 km North of Pretoria, South Africa.  (note the qualifier “believed to be” used in the list entry)   Similarly, in 1964 an “undetermined number of fragments … believed to be of Soviet origin” fell to earth in British Columbia, Canada. 

Most of the entries on the list that could be linked to Russian spacecraft are noted in terms of “believed to be of Soviet origin” – but are not confirmed as same.  But what is it about Wisconsin that it seems to be a magnet for this stuff?  Item #24 on the list is a titanium spherical pressure vessel identified as Soviet in origin found near Tomahawk, Wisconsin in October, 1966.
Only one entry on the list of 68 pieces of “recovered reentry debris” has been conclusively linked to a specific Soviet satellite:
In September 1962 a cylindrical metal piece (diameter 0.15 m, mass 9.5 kg) fell on a street intersection in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
Identified as part of Soviet Sputnik IV, launched May 15, 1960

The One.  The Only.  Come celebrate with us on September 7.  Planet Terry

*The "sunglasses" image I used in this post is from the 1988 John Carpenter science fiction film "They Live."  The photo shows Roddy Piper wearing a pair of "special" sunglasses that are integral to the plot of the movie.  If you aren't familiar with the film - check it out.  It's a fun homage to the 1950's alien invasion genre - and worth watching, in my opinion, for the line supposedly ad-libbed by Roddy Piper (aka wrestling star "Rowdy Roddy Piper") - "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick a** ... and I'm all out of bubblegum."  Here is a link to the trailer.

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