Lotteries, Life Insurance and Falling Satellites

A reliable source at the US space agency NASA has told Last Exit to Reality that one of its dead satellites will soon fall to Earth but, they claim, there is very little chance that it will hit anyone. The UARS satellite (pronounced you arse) will be landing on your house on or before September 24th depending on, well, everything.
The space agency does not know when or where its 20-year-old satellite will drop out of the sky like an old Areoflot Ilyushin IL96 but it will probably be in late September but could fall in early October. And it could land anywhere south of Juneau, Alaska, and north of the tip of South America. Talk about vague! NASA (which actually stands for Not Actually Sure of Anything) says there is only a 1 in 3,200 chance of satellite parts hitting someone. But a mole that we have deep inside NASA was quoted as saying “NASA knows exactly where and when it’s coming down, If they let the word out, a thousand idiots will gather at the impact site, waiting to get whacked. And their lawyers can sue NASA. ”

With odds like these you might think you are pretty safe  from being hit in the head by a 2200º piece of metal falling out of the sky, but when you consider that the odds of dying from natural forces such as a tsunami, hurricane, tornado, flood or earthquakes are 1-in-3,357, then it kind of brings things into perspective. Earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides and droughts killed at least a quarter million people in 2010, so it seems that getting a small piece of an AO-7 – AMSAT OSCAR zipping through your brain at 220 miles an hour would not be as rare as you think.

Let’s just consider for a moment that the chance of winning the jackpot on a 6 in 50 number draw is 1 in 13,983,816, while the chance getting pregnant when having unprotected sex without any contraception by normal healthy people in their 20’s in 1 in 5.  Statistics can be misleading, of course. People do win the lottery and some couples try for ages and simply can’t conceive. But the odds of death by falling satellite are much closer to the pregnancy statistic than the lottery one.

The experts all say not to worry. In the more than 50 years of the space age, no one has ever been hurt by falling space debris. (Or it has never been reported.)  The 5.4-tonne satellite that will soon rain down upon the planet was used to monitor the atmosphere and NASA claims that most of it will burn up during re-entry. They say that only about 550kg of metal should survive. Only 550kg? I suppose that is not a lot when you consider the size of the planet. Having said that (and crunched numbers and formulated odds with the Last Exit Super Computer) the chances of sudden cardiac death while running a marathon are 1 in 126,626. Yet in the 30 years between 1975 and 2005, 26 people did exactly that.
There is not a whole lot of ways to prepare for falling satellite bits. Super strength Kevlar titanium umbrellas are both costly and heavy and their effectiveness has yet to be proven on anything more than lab rats.

We asked the guys at NASA how the bits of metal might act when plummeting to earth. “Well, the pieces could reach speeds of 107 metres per second” our anonymous source said. (Giving you one second to dodge an object like a flaming washing machine coming from the end of a football pitch.) “So is it possible for humans to ensure they don’t get hit?” we asked him, while imagining trying to dodge a bullet train and trying to remember how Neo did it in “The Matrix”.
“Potentially, you could get out of the way, but if you’re going to spend all the time looking up then you’re at greater risk of an accident bumping into something than something coming down on you.”

There is however a sound opportunity for the part-time gambler here. Short term life insurance, travel insurance or falling satellite insurance policies are not expensive. From today, you would need just one or two months coverage. And if you covered yourself, family and friends (with you as the beneficiary) then you could make out quite well. In fact the odds will go up with every person that you cover, so why not pick a few Hollywood stars too? After all, L.A. is in the path of the debris. Of course there would also be the NASA hush money, which of course would be tax-free as no-one can even know about it. It has had to have happened before. And of course they would deny it, lest there be satellite panic.
In its history since 1957, The United States Space Surveillance Network has tracked more than 24,500 space objects orbiting Earth. The majority of these have fallen into unstable orbits and incinerated during reentry.

The key word here is “majority”. And since Last Exit and NASA have given you ample warning, you might want to stop wasting your time reading this drivel and get shopping for a good short-term policy.

For the latest updates on if the pieces will fall on your head or hit a nuclear power station, see the official NASA site :: It will rain satellite Friday the 23rd CHECK HERE

By the way, the Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects obligates the U.S. government to pay for any damage. Read it here.

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4 thoughts on “Lotteries, Life Insurance and Falling Satellites

  1. …oh and just to be really clear: this article had me in stitches, while I was crossing my fingers and toes that I wouldn’t get hit by a satellite splinter, and torn between getting insurance from HSBC or Barclays…all at the same time!

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