but satellite-sized buses kill hundreds every year.
Helen Gone, Oregon. The bus-sized Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), whose deteriorating orbit inspired sensationalist reporting around the world, fell into the Pacific Ocean on Saturday. No one was hurt, and no tsunami alerts were issued.
The USA's National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) expected the crash, but could not predict precisely where or when it would come down. Accordingly, news media warned everyone living on Earth between the 57th north and south parallels of lattitude to watch out for large flaming metal objects falling from the sky. NASA warned the public that any pieces of UARS are government property, to be reported but not touched.
Though the estimated target zone included most inhabited areas of the planet, NASA gave odds about 3200 to one that no one would be hit by the satellite's debris. Odds against any particular individual's being hit were quoted at trillions to one.
A scientist at the observatory in Goldendale, Washington, who declined to be identified in print, told this reporter, "You're really in far more danger from a satellite-sized bus. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says a few hundred Americans are killed in bus accidents every year. So on Saturday, you were trillions of times more likely to be killed by a bus than by a piece of UARS."
copyright 2011 by Harry Heyoka