Sputnikfest 2014


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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sputnikfest - Against the Odds ...

Kosmos-1220 was launched into orbit in November 1980 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, which was then part of the Soviet Union - and is the same launch site for Sputnik IV (of Sputnikfest fame.)  Its mission as part of the Soviet naval missile targeting system ended in 1982. 

The Russian Defense Ministry says the satellite burned up in the atmosphere at about 17:58 Moscow time (13:58 GMT) on February 16.  Prior to the fall of the satellite, British gambling giant Ladbrokes, gave odds on likely crash sites for the satellite, for instance: 2 to 1 odds that it to land in the Pacific Ocean and 10 to 1 that it would hit Europe.  

As of right now, I am a little unsure of exactly where it did end up.  While some sources are saying the satellite burned up on re-entry, other stories are saying it crashed to earth in northern Saudi Arabia.  All this more than 50 years after Sputnik IV made landfall in Manitowoc, Wisconsin - but after all that time, in some ways - not much has changed.  Then and now, pinpointing exact trajectories of space debris re-entering the atmosphere is extremely difficult. 

A story in the April-June 1963 Civil Service Journal titled "Death of Sputnik IV: Main Street U.S.A."  describes how unlikely it is for a fragment of a falling satellite to be recovered, as "four-fifths of the earth's surface is water" and "of the one-fifth that is land, a large proportion is behind the Iron Curtain.  Then too, a large part of the Free World land is uninhabited, forested, mountainous, etc."  

Successful recovery of a satellite fragment requires first that it survive the fiery plunge through the Earth's atmosphere and then be recognized for what it was after it does impact the earth.  This nearly didn't happen with Sputnik IV - as the two Manitowoc Policemen credited with the discovery in 1964 initially believed the item to be scrap metal from a local foundry and simply moved the 20-pound chunk of metal to the curb to keep it out of traffic. 

I wonder what odds Ladbrokes would give for a satellite fragment landing in Manitowoc Wisconsin - nearly on the center line of a street running right past a musuem? 

Sputnikfest.  Defy the odds.  Join us on on September 6, 2014.  Planet Terry

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