Saturday, January 26, 2008

On Naughty Satellites

Today it was announced that a large U.S. spy satellite has lost power and will be plummeting to the Earth in a matter of weeks. The satellite may or may not contain hazardous material (read: it does). No one is quite sure where it will land. The whole situation is "top secret," and we are assured that "appropriate government agencies are monitoring the situation."

But what is an appropriate agency in this situation? The one that originally launched the satellite? What (or who) exactly was this spy satellite spying on? How hazardous can the hazardous materials in a satellite be, and why are we zipping them around the planet if they're harmful enough to warrant mention? The whole situation is being reported as quickly mentioned, "just so you know" news, when the reality is, this satellite could kill people. Maybe lots of people.

How much responsibility is the US willing to pony up for carnage caused by a satellite no one was supposed to know existed? Does a non-existent satellite make a sound when it crashes into suburbia? Can we as citizens be expected to respect the "top secret business" front that's currently being displayed if it turns out the satellite does cause damage? If this situation blooms into a tragedy, are we to settle with never knowing why this satellite was placed in orbit to eventually plummet to the earth one day? This could become an ethical nightmare: this country faces having to take responsibility for damage caused by a potentially naughty satellite, and possibly having to take responsibility for the reasons that naughty satellite was doing something it shouldn't have been, and the information it gleaned. What's being passed off as not-such-a-big-deal has the potential to take another large chunk out of our already-low global approval rating.

As always, time will tell, and in the mean time, we thrive on such drama. So long as it doesn't come crashing through our roofs, that is.

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