Thirty years later, the sky is still falling

Thirty years ago, comic genius John Belushi did a skit on Saturday Night Live about NASA’s infamous Skylab space station falling into earth. At the time, NASA didn’t know where the huge Skylab would land, only that it would, upon entering the Earth’s atmosphere, break into about 500 pieces — the largest the size of a small bus.

NASA’s spinmeisters tried really hard, way back when, to reassure us that the huge pieces would pose no danger, which, when you think about it, was really ridiculous because not only did they not have a clue where it would land, but they didn’t know when.

Ultimately it hit the atmosphere, broke apart and scattered into a gazillion pieces across the Indian Ocean and Western Australia. Thankfully no one was harmed and Skylab, along with Belushi’s skit, faded into memory.

Until now.

This week, NASA is again informing us that a satellite is about to crash down on Earth and, again, the eggheads there don’t have a clue as to where or when it will land.

The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, which was decommissioned in 2005, is hurtling toward Earth and will most likely impact on or about Sept. 23, plus or minus a day. NASA scientists expect the 6.5 ton station to mostly disintegrate when it makes its fiery re-entry, breaking into about 26 pieces, with the largest expected to be about 331 pounds. Of course, they say that the chances of a piece of debris hitting a person is about one in 3,200. They further predict that the debris field will most likely land in the ocean or on land that is uninhabited.

Belushi ended his report that Saturday night with his usual “But Noooooooooo!” rant, saying the millions spent on Skylab would have been better spent in fixing mass transit, solar energy and cleaning up the environment. How right he was.

Not for Nuthin, it’s 30 years later and mass transit still needs fixing, we’re still struggling with solar energy and dependence on foreign energy sources, and our environment still needs a good scrubbing. You’d think in that time, the government would have learned its lesson. But Noooooooooo! — the more things change the more they really remain the same.

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