Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space

Space Debris Narrowly Misses Airliner 297

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the thats-why-i-wear-a-hat dept.
An anonymous reader writes "An airliner jet traveling from Chile to New Zealand early today was in for an interesting ride. Flaming space debris — the remains of a Russian satellite — came hurtling back to Earth not far from a commercial jet on its way to Auckland, New Zealand. Here's further justification for the growing concern of the increasing amounts of space garbage orbiting our planet. From the article: 'The pilot of a Lan Chile Airbus A340 ... notified air traffic controllers at Auckland Oceanic Centre after seeing flaming space junk hurtling across the sky just five nautical miles in front of and behind his plane...'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Space Debris Narrowly Misses Airliner

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @08:36AM (#18513807)
    YOU hit spacejunk!
  • by SouperMike (199023) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @08:37AM (#18513817)

    An airliner jet traveling from Chili to New Zealand early today were in for an interesting ride. Flaming space debris -- the remains of a Russion satellite -- came hurtling back to Earth not far from commercial jet on their way to Auckland, New Zealand.

    Chili?

    Russion?



    I hate it when my spicy peppers serve as runways.... editors, come on. Are you kidding me?

  • Damne them! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Billosaur (927319) *

    the remains of a Russion satellite --

    Damne those Russions!!!

    Sorry... couldn't help myself...

  • so it missed him by FIVE MILES? ;-)

    (I kid, I kid.. that is a little too close.)
  • Behind? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by drachenfyre (550754) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @08:40AM (#18513847) Homepage
    I'm curious, when did Airbus start putting rear view mirrors in their planes? I have never known it possible in any recent commercial airliner for the pilots to see back behind them.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by antifoidulus (807088)
      Dude, just stick your head out and look! It's not that hard.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by cabinetsoft (923481)

      I'm curious, when did Airbus start putting rear view mirrors in their planes? I have never known it possible in any recent commercial airliner for the pilots to see back behind them
      Video camera?
    • by Somegeek (624100)
      I would guess that when the pilot saw flaming debris in front of the plane the pilot banked to the side and then saw more debris falling in the area that was behind the previous course.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Odin's Raven (145278)

      I'm curious, when did Airbus start putting rear view mirrors in their planes? I have never known it possible in any recent commercial airliner for the pilots to see back behind them.

      It's possible that the description of "behind" meant something other than "directly behind". Sure, in commercial aircraft cockpits you can't see the tail of the plane from the cockpit, but you could certainly see something well past a 90 degree bearing if you lean towards the window. Even from a dinky passenger window y

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I work at a major supplier for onboard electronic systems for airliners. I'll remind my boss at the next meeting to bump up the priority on the space junk laser defense system.
  • Behind the plane? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hlh_nospam (178327) <concealedhandgun ... AGOom minus city> on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @08:42AM (#18513873) Homepage Journal
    Looks like this article needs some proofreading (Russion?), in addition to a reasonableness check. I have never piloted an aircraft in which you could see to the rear. The only aircraft that I know of in which you can see to the rear are military fighters, and even then, the view is limited, and the pilot has rare occasion to look back. Well, actually, I take that back -- I've seen pictures of general aviation aircraft with 'bubble' canopies, but I've never actually seen one in person.
    • by radish (98371)
      Could it be that he "saw" it on radar? I don't know...just thinking that determining something is 5 miles away with the naked eye is also pretty tough.
      • Visibility is really increased when it's in the sky and on fire. Weather radar doesn't pick up objects like a military radar does, it's at a frequency that is suited to "seeing" water vapor.
    • Re:Behind the plane? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gunny01 (1022579) <niggerslol AT nigs DOT us> on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @09:17AM (#18514187) Homepage
      Most Airbus planes have reversing cams, that let you see out the back of the plane from your seat.

      That said, the pilot couldn't have seen it from 5 nm (9.26km, for the non-plane nut /.ers), and to my knowledge, commercial airliners don't carry radar to pick up that sort of stuff. They carry weather and transponder radar, not the fancy military radar you'd need to detect flying pieces of metal in the sky.

      This story smell like something the fools at airliners.net would drag up. Chili? Russion! Seriously, slashdot is really going downhill recently...
    • Re:Behind the plane? (Score:4, Informative)

      by jsight (8987) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @10:03AM (#18514785) Homepage

      I have never piloted an aircraft in which you could see to the rear. The only aircraft that I know of in which you can see to the rear are military fighters, and even then, the view is limited, and the pilot has rare occasion to look back.


      Then you haven't flown many aircraft. The Cessna 172 would be one example (ok, the really early ones didn't have rear windows, but most do). :)

      Looking back in flight even then would be relatively unusual, but then so is seeing flaming debris flying by.
    • What sort of planes have you been flying? Every Cessna 152 I've ever flown had an original-equipment-manufacture rear-view mirror in the top of the instrument panel (most missing, but the impression for it was still there.) *EVERY* plane I've ever flown in: Cessna 152, Cessna 170, Cessna 172, Cessna 182, Cessna 206, Piper Comanche, Mooney 20F, the first thing you do when you run up the engine is look over your shoulder to see the rudder and elevators to make sure the flight controls are correctly rigged b
    • I have never piloted an aircraft in which you could see to the rear. The only aircraft that I know of in which you can see to the rear are military fighters, and even then, the view is limited, and the pilot has rare occasion to look back.

      Hmmmm...what kind of airplanes do you fly? Unless I am forgetting some obscure model, every single-engine Cessna built since the 1960's has had rear windows. Having flown 150's, 152's, 172's, 182's and 206's, I can attest that you can, in fact, see out the back of thes

  • by mfarah (231411) <miguel@[ ]ah.cl ['far' in gap]> on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @08:44AM (#18513889) Homepage
    This isn't the first time I read some news involving Chile here on slashdot before there's any local news coverage, if at all (two previous ones were the one about the mapuches complaining about a Mapudungun version of Windows [slashdot.org] and the one about the mistery corpse beached in the southern region [slashdot.org]).

    It's sad that our journalism sucks so much.

    • by locoluis (69948)
      Depends on who you read.

      I think I saw both articles on Chilean blogs and internet sources before seeing it on Slashdot.

      Of course, you probably mean mainstream media. They're just now reporting our victory at the 2007 Suwon Cup.
  • Space debris eh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kandenshi (832555) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @08:47AM (#18513911)
    So, how long before Planetes becomes a reality?

    wikipedia's page [wikipedia.org]
    Animenfo's link [animenfo.com]

    Using the Kessler syndrome [wikipedia.org] seems to be a popular enough thing in fiction, I wonder if it'll ever get to be a problem in reality.
  • A manner in which to combat global warming is to reduce the amount of sunlight reaching earth! Now, instead of the ridulous expensive and unfeasable giant space-reflectors, thanks to human waste management (well, rather the lack of it) we have a viable means to do so!

    Without knowing it, we are already heading in the good direction; we only need a concerted effort to further improve upon. If we can muster enough fine particles and bring a dustcloud of debris around our planet in low orbit, thick enough to te
    • Foolish me, and here I was thinking a limited nuclear exchange would deal with global warming nicely.

  • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @08:49AM (#18513939)
    after seeing flaming space junk hurtling across the sky just five nautical miles in front of and behind his plane...

    Apparently the Russions developed wormhole technology! An object can be both in front of and behind a jet at the same time! I hope they don't share this technology with the Chili-ans!

    Apparently, the Chili-ans have already developed the highly vaunted A-340 rear-view mirror technology. (Seriously, how do you see something 5 miles BEHIND a A-340 from the pilot seat?)

    Or maybe this is just the worst summary ever. Although I'm a fan of anybody who can completely offend 160 million people in a single paragraph by misspelling the name of their nations.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      air bus do have rear view cameras installed in their planes. The purpose of these cameras is to assist with the taxing of the aircraft, makes it easier to spot any russions as well :)
  • Very small chance (Score:2, Insightful)

    by FredDC (1048502)
    I think there is a very small chance of space debris reentering the atmosphere, hitting an airplane. It is possible ofcourse, but I think you've got a better chance of winning the lottery...

    Most of the debris coming down is burned up before it even reaches commercial airplane altittudes. And it's not as if the sky is full of airplanes, the amount of sky taken up by airplanes is extremely small.

    So I don't think this is an actual problem, it could happen but most likely it won't!
    • by T.E.D. (34228)

      I think there is a very small chance of space debris reentering the atmosphere, hitting an airplane. It is possible ofcourse, but I think you've got a better chance of winning the lottery...


      Hmmm...so should I buy a lottery ticket, or an airline ticket?
      • by Intron (870560)
        Airline ticket + flight insurance.

        Seriously, the probability is based on area, not distance. This debris came down within the same 30 or so square miles as the plane and its noteworthy.

        Calculate the debris flux (debris strikes / unit area / day)
        Number of planes in the sky at any time
        Area of a plane (assume to be much larger than debris)
        Integrate over area of the Earth
        Should show small probability of a plane being hit. My wild guess, since I'm too lazy to do it is once every million years.

        The danger to grou
  • by iiii (541004) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @08:53AM (#18513967) Homepage
    Here's further justification for the growing concern of the increasing amounts of space garbage orbiting our planet

    Absolutely false. That was not space junk. It was atmospheric junk, which is not a problem because it falls, burns, and rapidly becomes either vaporized or on the ground. The problem with space junk is that it just sits there in orbit and never goes away. And the orbit that it is in could cross your orbit with an extremely high closing velocity.

    If we could get all of our space junk to become atmospheric junk, the problem would be solved.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by LoofWaffle (976969)

      Absolutely false. That was not space junk. It was atmospheric junk, which is not a problem because it falls, burns, and rapidly becomes either vaporized or on the ground. The problem with space junk is that it just sits there in orbit and never goes away. And the orbit that it is in could cross your orbit with an extremely high closing velocity. If we could get all of our space junk to become atmospheric junk, the problem would be solved.

      Just a couple of technical issues with your justification. First, it was space junk because it didn't start in the atmosphere (unless you count the moment it was launched, in which case I concede). Second, falling debris (whether atmospheric or otherwise)is a problem. Something with sufficient mass that survives the free fall will cause damage. Third, the orbit of space junk is the determining factor as to whether or not it goes away. A piece of debris in a low earth orbit or with a highly eccentric or

  • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @08:57AM (#18513993)
    "Flaming Space Debris", now that's a great name for a rock band.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      They were at Woodstock, but they crashed into Jefferson Airplane and set Jimi Hendrix's guitar on fire... oh wait, they said DON'T take the brown acid! My bad.
  • by rodney dill (631059) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @08:58AM (#18514003) Journal
    Fortunately work has already been begun on Dr. Evils's Giant Magnet [yahoo.com]
  • by dimss (457848)
    1) Why do they think that was russian satellite? If it has deobited 12 hours earlier than expected, why this occured in _correct_ place?
    2) (Someone already pointed at this) How could pilot see behind the plane?
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      2) (Someone already pointed at this) How could pilot see behind the plane?

            Obviously all distance estimates are ESTIMATES. But perhaps the debris was headed FOR him, and some of it passed overhead - which the pilot would see. Therefore he estimated it as 5 nm aft.
  • to clean up the mess in our space. :-)
  • 5 nautical miles = 9.26 km
    A380-800 wing span (maximal dimension)=79.8m.

    The probability of debris atcually hitting the plane is (9.26/79.8)^3*10^9 = 1,562,515.33 times smaller than the probability of the event described in the article.
    • by mapkinase (958129)
      Even if you take 2D instead of 3D (which might be correct) it is still 13,465 times less chance. Assuming that the amount of debris is relatively unchanged during this year and the fact that this is the first observed case, one should assume that the expectancy of the catastrophic event is in 13000 years (given the same amount of debris, of course).
  • The odds?!?! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Kong99 (618393)
    Seriously, what are the odds of being in an aircraft and being hit by space debris?!!? 10 Million : 1, 100 Million : 1, 1 Billion : 1. This is NOT a problem. An oddity, curiosity, decent headline... yes. A problem, no.
  • Relative Risk (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Silver Sloth (770927) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @09:24AM (#18514273)
    Number of people killed per annum by falling space junk hitting aircraft - 0
    Number of people killed per annum by motor accidents in the UK - 3221 [bbc.co.uk] (and that was a record low)

    I'm not sure this story will keep me awake at night.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by steevc (54110)
      Over a million [state.gov] killed worldwide on the roads! I believe it's around 40k/year just in the USA.

      How many die in plane crashes each year? I expect it's in the hundreds on average. Similar for trains.

      I think the news programmes should announce road death statistics regularly to give people some perspective on which is the most dangerous form of transport. I'm certainly more scared when driving than when flying even though I appreciate that a motoring accident is generally more survivable.

      Read some Schneier [schneier.com] for s
      • by tompaulco (629533)
        In the U.S., the average is only a few hundred deaths per year. It is higher worldwide. There are some countries with a miniscule percentage of the air traffic of the U.S. which consistently have more fatalities every year than the U.S.
        The number of deaths in General Aviation accidents in the U.S. every year is higher than the number for commercial deaths every year despite there being hundreds of times as many people moved by commercial airline than by GA. You are slightly more likely to die in a GA accid
  • mmmmmmmm chili ahhhhhhhhhh
  • I think this is more of a perceived risk than an actual risk.
  • So: (Score:2, Informative)

    by Shaltenn (1031884)
    The A340 (Depending on Variant) travels at anywhere from 544mph to 570mph. The debris was 5miles ahead and 5miles behind them. Lets take the typical cruise speed of 544mph. 544mph ~ 9miles per minute and ~ .15miles per second. So if they were a minute slower they prolly woulda hit the trailing debris, and if they were a minute faster they prolly woulda hit the leading debris. That's crazyness!

    Good piloting on their fault, I'm glad nothing terrible came of this. Aviation has had enough problems.
  • by boatboy (549643)
    Two words: Dharma Intitiative.
  • by TallestRocketScienti (950034) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @10:37AM (#18515239) Homepage
    All major themes of these reports -- except the existence of a startling and bright fireball -- need to be treated with EXTREME SKEPTICISM. All available documentation shows the Progress de-orbit was performed exactly on time -- and if it wasn't, it would have burned up over an entirely different part of the globe. Twelve hours earlier, its passages across the Pacific were over Kamchatka and just south of the Aleutians -- nowhere near the airborne eyewitnesses. Range estimates by pilots of bright fireballs are NOTORIOUSLY inaccurate, and pilots have been known to throw their aircraft into violent evasive maneuvers based on seeing bright fireballs that were 100 to 150 kilometers away. This is GOOD for safety's sake -- always interpret a sudden visual stimulus in the most hazardous way -- but it's bad for 'dispassionate observations'.
  • by SeaDour (704727) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @11:11AM (#18515721) Homepage
    "In the event of a collision with a huge, fiery meteor, oxygen masks will drop from the panel above you..."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @11:38AM (#18516131)
    Even to experienced pilots, a sight like this is extremely deceptive, especially at night.

    I witnessed the same thing about 20 years ago, as I was flying a B-52 westbound over Montana on a night-time training flight. A Russian booster re-entered the atmosphere in front of us, traveling north to south (it had just put a satellite into polar orbit), visibly burning and breaking up. Pilots all over the western US were reporting the sight, many thinking an airliner was burning and breaking up in their immediate vicinity.

    The funny thing was that even though the thing was at least 50 to 75 miles above any of us and hundreds of miles away from most of the pilots witnessing it, most were reporting it to be within a few thousand feet vertically, and less than 10 miles away.

    The human visual system is just not equipped to judge the size and position of something like this without a terrestrial frame of reference. All pilots are aware of that, but in the heat of the moment, the visual illusion can be extremely powerful.
  • seeing flaming space junk hurtling across the sky just five nautical miles in front of and behind his plane

    I just what to know how he saw it out of the back of the plane. It's not like they've got rearview mirrors on their Boeings.

  • I think they are sensationalizing the story a bit too much. That particular model of plane cruises at roughly 550 MPH. The debris were roughly 5 miles away, and being called a near miss. 550/60 = ~9.16 Miles per min 5/9.16 = ~0.54 mins apart Now, at first glance that might seem close, but consider that if someone crosses the street 30 seconds before you get there, you DID NOT narrowly miss them. You missed them by a quite a lot, at least in my opinion.

NOWPRINT. NOWPRINT. Clemclone, back to the shadows again. - The Firesign Theater

Working...