The sky really is falling

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, the government quietly passed word over the weekend that a 2-ton U.S. satellite the size of a small bus had gone out of control and was headed toward Earth.

Because it’s a spy satellite, believed to be for photo reconnaissance, the government won’t say what kind of dangerous stuff might be aboard. As for the question on everybody’s mind — “Where’s it going to hit?” — officials don’t know.

As for the date of impact, late February-ish or early March-ish.

Average people worry that this plummeting short bus could come down where they’re standing. The government worries that the satellite will come down where a rival power can get hold of it. You might wonder how much information another government could extract from a smoking crater, but maybe it could learn something. And Russia and China do cover a lot of land area.

Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for President Bush’s National Security Council, deflected a question about the possibility of shooting down the satellite with a missile. On the face of it, that doesn’t make much sense. The satellite is still coming down, only in smaller pieces. Plus, you also have the debris from the missile to worry about.

Johndroe probably thought he was being reassuring when he said, “Appropriate government agencies are monitoring the situation.” Please tell us one of them isn’t FEMA.