Feeds

Astronaut space dump pong-bomb frag shower today

ISS Stinky fridge hurl plunge shocker

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

An old fridge thrown off the International Space Station last year is set to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere shortly, according to reports, delivering a volley of 100mph space frag debris to an as-yet unknown impact site.

The refrigeration unit in question is the Early Ammonia System (EAS), a 1400lb tank intended to furnish backup supplies of the unpleasant-smelling coolant to the space station in the early stages of its construction. As the ISS neared completion it became surplus to requirements.

The disused stink-tank might more normally have been shipped back to Earth aboard a space shuttle, but in the end no room was found. Astronaut Clay Anderson dealt with the problem briskly in July last year, flinging the hefty three-quarter-ton unit off the end of the space station's robot arm along with an old camera mounting also deemed no longer necessary.

In the year-plus since, the orbital pong-bomb has gradually slowed down due to the friction exerted by the extreme upper atmosphere, thus descending and becoming subject to more friction and so on. In effect, the EAS has hung above our heads like an evil-smelling Sword of Damocles, which might suddenly plunge down to release its payload of eyewatering space niff at any time. The tipping point at which the slowing and dropping suddenly accelerates and the descent begins in earnest is expected imminently; surviving pieces of the EAS should reach Earth today.

"This has got a very low likelihood that anybody will be impacted by it," said NASA's Mike Suffredini, quoted by MSNBC. "But still, it is a large object and pieces will enter and we just need to be cautious."

NASA exploding-space-fridge experts have worked out that the largest pieces of tank which could survive might be as big as 15lb and travelling at 100mph. The fridge-frag shower will most likely fall out at sea, but might conceivably hit a populated area if things turn out unfortunately.

The greatest danger associated with the plunging pong-barrel would be impact damage from the pieces, rather than its ammonia contents - which would be sure to have vapourised by then. Nonetheless, NASA's Suffredini added:

"If anybody found a piece of anything on the ground Monday morning, I would hope they wouldn't get too close to it."

There were never any plans to engage the innocuous coolant assembly with a volley of missile-defence interceptors fired from US Navy cruisers, as happened the last time an American tankful of stinks came down from orbit out of control. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
LIFE, JIM? Comet probot lander found 'ORGANICS' on far-off iceball
That's it for God, then – if Comet 67P has got complex molecules
Rosetta probot drilling DENIED: Philae has its 'LEG in the AIR'
NOT best position for scientific fulfillment
'Yes, yes... YES!' Philae lands on COMET 67P
Plucky probot aces landing on high-speed space rock - emotional scenes in Darmstadt
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rocking boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
THERE it is! Philae comet lander FOUND in EXISTING Rosetta PICS
Crumb? Pixel? ALIEN? Better, it's a comet-catcher!
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Simplify SSL certificate management across the enterprise
Simple steps to take control of SSL across the enterprise, and recommendations for a management platform for full visibility and single-point of control for these Certificates.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.