US Downs Satellite, Awaits Fallout

Reuters reports on the Pentagon's announcementthat it successfully intercepted a failing spy satellite last night.There's no confirmation on whether its toxic fuel tank was destroyed,although an explosion upon the intercepting missile's impact indicatesthat it was. Also no word yet on the eventual groundfall of thematerial debris. Danger Room's Noah Shachtman has got a great rundown of the technical challengesof the operation, including the eyebrow-raising tidbit that the finalcommand for the intercept launch was given by Bob Gates himself. Talkabout a high-voltage video gaming experience.

WPR has been all over this story, with a solid piece on the diplomatic context of the intercept operation, as well as one on some of the strategic maneuvering that preceded it.Suffice it to say that for all the chatter about not interpreting thisas a test of space-based military capabilities, this was in essence atest of space-based military capabilities. Other factors might havemade this satellite a particularly worthy candidate for the exercise,but I don't think anyone (read: the Russians and Chinese) is beingduped here.

By coincidence, I just brought my son to an exhibiton the history of space exploration last weekend, where among otherthings we saw vintage replicas of the living rooms where people learnedof the breakthroughs of the space age: Moscow, circa 1961 and Sputnick,NY circa 1969 and the Apollo moon landing, etc. The way the exhibitrecreated the environments where people learned of these eventsreinforced how far we'd come, not just in terms of technology (therewas a reproduction of the tiny Sputnick 2 satellite, where Laika thespacedog became the first living creature to travel and cook to deathin space), but also in terms of diplomacy. It's hard to believe, but inforty years we went from the race to the moon, to the InternationalSpace Station.

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