Re: Mir is falling on my head?

Geoff Smith (
Thu, 20 Nov 1997 11:09:34 -0800 (PST)

On Tue, 18 Nov 1997, Michael Lorrey wrote:

> carl feynman wrote:
> >
> > At 03:23 PM 11/15/97 -0800, you wrote:
> > >
> > >
> > >Has anyone heard anything about a piece of Mir landing near Vancouver, BC,
> > >Canada? Last night,(around 9pm PST) I say the most amazing light show
> > >which involved two bright streams of material flying very low overhead.
> > >One very bright orange piece appeared to hit ground, as it was followed
> > >by low, thundering noises. The rumour here is that it was a spent Russian
> > >fuel cell. Could something like this actually hit the earth? If so, why
> > >are they dropping these things on my head? ;)
> >
> > When you say 'appeared to hit ground', did you actually see it hit, or did
> > it go behind a hill?

I didn't get this Carl Feynman's e-mail for some reason, so I'll answer
your question here: No. I did not see it hit. What I say was two streams
of brightly glowing material (looked like very large roman candles
slowly moving across the sky) Once the lights disappeared behind the
trees, there were numerous sounds of intense, low-frequency thunder (note,
there were no clouds in the sky) I'm thinking this was either impact, or
maybe a sonic boom??? (is this possible?)

> > I haven't heard anything about this event, but from your description, what
> > you saw was an object weighing at least tens of kilograms falling from
> > space. Such objects are usually satellites or other space junk, but
> > occaisionally natural meteorites. It was unlikely to be a piece of Mir,
> > since Mir is in a high orbit and is fairly disciplined about sending its
> > junk back to Earth on spacecraft, rather than simply throwing it away.
> > Most satellites are of sufficiently flimsy construction that they burn up
> > before hitting the ground. Re-entry would burn off at least an inch or two
> > of solid steel, and few spacecraft parts are so hefty. When Skylab
> > re-entered, the only part that survived was a radiation-proof safe they
> > kept their film in. In particular, fuel cells are not dense enough to
> > survive, AFAIK. On the other hand, it probably was a Soviet or Russian
> > object. They sent up a lot more stuff than the rest of the world put
> > together, and they weren't as fastidious as other countries about not
> > letting things fall out of orbit.
> >
> > They're dropping things on your head because the odds of actually hitting
> > anyone are pretty slim, and even if they hit someone, the chance of being
> > held legally responsible is small, and even then, the cost of losing a
> > wrongful death suit are far less than the cost of launching the payload in
> > the first place.
> >
> I don't know who "you" is,

Now you do. ;)

> but according to the Russians and NORAD, it
> was a reentering Proton booster,

Ah! Finally a definitive answer on what it was. There are many rumours
floating around (ie. satellite, fuel cell, etc...)

> reentering as previously predicted. The
> main body landed out to sea, while denser material, like the engines,
> had slightly longer trajectories that took them into eastern Washington
> State.

This would make sense, what I saw was definitely heading east.

> Actual impacts have not been reported, but that is to be expected
> given the sparseness of that part of the state. Art Bell and other
> ignorant sensationalist ufo hounds are making all sorts fo outlandish
> claims that do nothing but make them look like fools to anyone who has
> seen the video footage shown on KING channel 5 in Seattle.

It was a truly amazing sight first-person. At first, I thought I had just
experience of the greatest meteor showers ever. It was a great spectacle
no matter what the lights were composed of.