Take cover, folks – satellite bits are headed for earth but Nasa doesn’t know where they’ll land

Eketahuna is inside the landing zone.

Don’t go looking for Alf to discuss surveillance legislation or the Minister for the Rugby World Cup or any of that tosh.

For the next several days he will be taking cover in the nuclear bomb shelter his dad dug in Eketahuna at the time of the Cuba crisis, some 50 years ago.

The Grumbles will be taking cover on learning that a falling satellite could land any time soon and the ‘strike zone’ covers most of the planet

The satellite apparently ran out of fuel in 2005, which tells us these things can go for a helluva long time on an empty tank.

Anyway, it is about to make a return journey to earth and Nasa has no idea where it will crash land.

The Daily Mail in Britain tells us –

* It could hit any time from Thursday to Saturday (US time) this week; and

* Around 26 pieces will hit the surface, in pieces weighing up to 300 pounds

Nasa scientists are working round the clock to tell us where and when a six-ton satellite will land this week – but the only thing that’s certain is that pieces of it will hit the surface of the planet.

The 20-year-old satellite will, Nasa estimates, break into more than 100 pieces on re-entry, and some will burn up – but it’s estimated that around 26 of the heaviest metal pieces WILL hit the surface – in lumps weighing up to 300 pounds. In total, 1,200 pounds of metal will hit.

Debris could be scattered over an area up to 500 miles long.

Nasa says there’s a 1 in 3,200 chance pieces could hit someone, which strikes Alf as not good odds, although he accepts that it could land on any one of 6 billion or so people if this does become the first time in history when someone is injured – or killed – by space debris.

NASA reckons it could land at any point between 57 degrees north and 57 degrees south, which the Mail points out happens to include almost all the populated areas of our planet.

But the Mail is trying to put a reassuring spin on the scare story.

Don’t worry too much, though – the odds of any one particular person being hit are much lower, around one in 21 trillion.

Those odds won’t keep Alf from taking sheler for the next day or so.

A Nasa spokesman is putting a reassuring spin on things too, pointing out that there has yet to be any reported injury from falling space debris.

He said: ‘The risk to public safety or property is extremely small, and safety is NASA’s top priority. Since the beginning of the Space Age in the late-1950s, there have been no confirmed reports of an injury resulting from re-entering space objects.

But there was a time when nobody had been run down by a train or a motor car.

There has to be a first time.

And Alf has equipped his shelter for just such an emergency, and will be using it now to ensure he is not the first victim of a satellite.

And yes, there is plenty of scotch in the shelter.

More scotch than food, last time Alf checked, although whenever Mrs Grumble sees a special on baked beans she is apt to buy a dozen or so cans. There’s a telly down there too to keep an eye on the rugby.

It would be a bit of bugger, of course, if a falling satellite bit happened to knock Richie McCaw out of the Rugby World Cup.

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