Monday, November 03, 2008

A decaying tank that is not shot down

Somewhere today, the Early Ammonia Servicer (EAS) will plunge into our atmosphere and decay. The EAS is a large refridgerator-sized tank filled with ammonia, that once was part of the International Space Station. It was never used, and finaly jettisoned during an EVA on July 27th, 2007. I observed it several times, and photographed it on July 20 this year.

Interestingly, some pieces of the EAS are thought to probably survive re-entry. Plus, it is filled with a large amount of Ammonia, a rather agressive substance.

Remember all the fuss about the hydrazine tank of USA 193 early this year? The danger of anyone coming into contact with the agressive hydrazine, was the official "argument" to shoot the decaying spy satellite USA 193 down with a missile. Subsequently, fierce debate erupted about whether this really was the reason or not (see here and here).

Now, here we have another tank with an agressive substance, the EAS, decaying. And does anyone really bother? No, apparently. Even though a NASA spokesperson is quoted in this Space.com story as saying:

NASA expects up to 15 pieces of the tank to survive the searing hot temperatures of re-entry, ranging in size from about 1.4 ounces (40 grams) to nearly 40 pounds (17.5 kg).


and:

"If anybody found a piece of anything on the ground Monday morning, I would hope they wouldn't get too close to it," Suffredini said.


Wasn't the last thing exactly what all the hu-ha was about with USA 193?! I again conclude that the whole fuss about the hydrazine in USA 193 was not the primary reason to shoot it down....

(Click image to enlarge)

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