Sometimes, the best justification for something is to look at the things that it is not:
The unmanned $170 million Phobos-Ground was launched two weeks ago and reached preliminary Earth orbit, but its engines never fired to send it off to the Red Planet. Russian engineers have been trying to retrieve data from the probe as it passes over their territory but haven’t established contact ….
…. The failed spacecraft is 13.2 metric tons (14.6 tons), and most of that weight, about 11 metric tons (12 tons), is highly toxic fuel.
Davydov said Tuesday that Phobos-Ground could crash to Earth some time between late December and late February. The site of the crash cannot be established more than a day in advance, he said.
Davydov insisted that “if you calculate the probability of it hitting somebody on the head, it is close to zero.”
Thank you, Vitaly Davydov. We all feel so much better.
Look, it is not that people fret about the satellite landing on them. Rather, the fuel is toxic and, well, I suppose there is always the comfort of knowing that three quarters of the Earth’s surface is water, and there is often much open space between large cities.
Furthermore, NASA has lost Martian satellite probes before, but at least they got the thing beyond orbit.
Meanwhile, as Congressional budgeteers in the United States wrangle over the question of how to shore up American debt while making people of ungodly wealth even more prosperous while maintaining our ability to invade whoever we decide needs their ass kicked on any given day, one thing that Democrats and Republicans seem to agree on is that NASA is one part of our federal spending we can afford to mutilate. After all, being able to settle satellites at Lagrangian Points, or navigate through asteroid fields to orbit a big rock, then kick away and do it all over again—well, yeah, that is the issue, is it not? Every time we cut NASA’s budget, the eggheads on the Cape manage to figure out how to do their jobs successfully. So it makes sense that the one part of our federal endeavor that actually does its job is the one we should slash.
After all, why should the United States foster a manned space program? We can just bum rides with the Russians.