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Space

Why Shoot Down a Satellite? Analyzing an Analysis 238

A reader, name withheld by request, writes "Writing in the IEEE Spectrum, James Oberg analyzes whether there was, in fact a significant risk to humans from the satellite which the US military shot down on 21 February, purportedly 'to head off the possibility of its splashing a half ton of toxic hydrazine fuel somewhere on Earth.' Previous experts had 'scoffed' at the rationale put forth, pointing out that there was trivial possibility that any significant amount of toxic fuel would make it to the ground intact. Oberg's analysis, titled 'the inside story,' purports to debunk this, and claims that indeed it's possible, and even likely, that there could be a danger to the ground. Unfortunately, the analysis is full of flaws and lack of rigor — indeed, lacking any sort of numerical reasoning. It seems to be too much repeating official 'spin,' and could have used a hefty dose of skepticism — and could also use a little bit of actual analysis using numbers, rather than handwaving." Read on for the rest of an interesting analysis of a topic that suddenly seems more complex.

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