I spent much of the past week searching the heavens, baseball mitt in hand, hoping to catch a piece of the falling NASA Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite.
The falling satellite had garnered worldwide interest the past few weeks as the public speculated where it would land, and I was disappointed to learn the UARS ultimately fell near Calgary, Canada–nowhere near Shanghai–despite the crayon-scribbled calculations of my seven-year-old son who is learning about space in school. I’m disappointed I didn’t catch anything, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since I’ve never caught a foul ball at a baseball game before either, although I have had players throw bats at me in response to my repeated heckling of their girlfriends.
My excitement stemmed from the idea NASA would have to pay me if any debris hit me or my family. My wife, two kids, and I spent much of last week sleeping in the backyard to increase our changes of getting hit and getting paid. NASA predicted the chances were only 1 in 3,200 that the debris would hit anyone, but my seven-year-old understood this data to mean the debris would hit 3,200 people and we had no reason to question him because he’s learning about space in school. I felt the odds of one of us four getting hit were very competitive, especially when my seven-year-old calculated the world only had about 10,000 people.
On Friday I read the satellite described as ‘bus-sized’, and decided maybe I didn’t want this bus-sized chunk hitting us directly, but I was hoping it would land directly adjacent to my home and become a free extension of our house we could turn into a billiards room. I don’t play a lot of billiards yet, but I might want to start if I could preface each invitation with, “You’ve got to see our billiards room–it’s outta this world!” And then once they see the billiards room is inside a satellite, they’ll love my “outta this world” joke, and if they don’t love it, well, did I mention my satellite billiards room contains a trap door dropping humorless guests into a dungeon containing the space snakes we discovered living in the satellite when it crashed?
If I knew the chances of the satellite landing in our yard were so slim, I wouldn’t have spent Friday digging up my wife’s flowers to clear a spot for it behind the patio, and I certainly wouldn’t have made satellite-shaped cards inviting guests to next week’s space billiards-themed party. The invitations have already been sent and now I have to find another bus-sized satellite by next Saturday.
While clearing the patio I thought I had found some space debris in my backyard, but this turned out to be remnants of the printer I threw out my window in May, although I still plan to sue NASA for the damage done by its Canon Inkjet Satellite. My son thinks we have an excellent case, and we have no reason to doubt him because he’s studying space in school.
Adding to my disappointment, not only didn’t the satellite land next to my house, it also didn’t land on my second, third, or fourth choices:
2. Vin Diesel’s house.
3. The house where the Jersey Shore cast is living.
4. Right in the middle of a garage sale, and nobody notices it landing and a customer asks, “How much do you want for this satellite?” And the homeowner will scratch his head trying to remember what year his in-laws had given them a bus-sized satellite for Christmas.