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The Best of Times Short Story Competition


Spring 2007 Results




Re-entry

Copyright © Steve Mitchell 2007


NASA jettisons junk into space

The Age, July 25, 2007

By IRENE KLOTZ

CAPE CANAVERAL

NASA astronauts on the International Space Station have thrown two large pieces of obsolete equipment into orbit. Flight engineer Clay Anderson and commander Fyodor Yurchikhin cast overboard a 630kg refrigerator-sized ammonia tank and 96kg of video equipment during a spacewalk on Monday.

NASA normally frowns on littering in space, but found it had no better option than to discard the equipment. With just 14 missions to the space station remaining before the space shuttles are retired in 2010, engineers could not make room in a shuttle cargo bay to transport the gear back to Earth.

NASA is concerned the free-flying debris might hit the station and plans to adjust its orbit to give the space junk a wide berth.

Both items will be tracked by radar until they burn up upon re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere. It is believed pieces of the huge white ammonia tank could survive and strike the Earth. NASA expects any debris to land in the ocean, but calculated a one-in-5000 chance that it could injure or kill a person. The ammonia tank is expected to remain in orbit for at least 300 days and the agency will issue warnings if it becomes a threat during re-entry.

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Astronaut reveals truth about space junk

The Herald Sun, August 7, 2007

By TAB LLOYD

MELBOURNE

One of the three crew onboard the International Space Station has spoken publicly about the space junk he jettisoned last week. In an exclusive interview with Today Tonight, astronaut Clay Anderson said the 630kg ammonia tank was in fact a refrigerator and the other item a 96kg Russian television set.

During the live satellite interview, Anderson told of the cramped conditions aboard the station and how they needed to make some room for a pool table arriving on the next shuttle visit.

“The fridge and TV totally had to go. It was like hard-rubbish day back home. They wouldn’t have fit onboard the shuttle anyway – not with all the empty bottles and pizza boxes it has to take back. We don’t throw that stuff away; it’s important to recycle.”

Asked whether he thought the discarded fridge might pose a threat to other satellites in orbit, Anderson said, “Not at all. It was a pretty good throw. It won’t hit anything.”

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Spy satellite goes missing

Washington Post, August 9, 2007

By ROY TURRS

CAPE CANAVERAL

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‘Lazy’ cosmonaut led to TV eviction

The New York Times, August 15, 2007

By OLGA LORENZO

MIAMI

A NASA insider has revealed that the recent dumping of a refrigerator and TV from the International Space Station was a result of growing tensions between the crew. “They were having some issues with Oleg,” said an unnamed source.

It has been alleged that flight engineer Oleg Kotov had been hogging the TV and watching Russian Big Brother to the extent that he neglected his rostered duties. After a string of all-nighters the cosmonaut was found sleeping off a hangover inside the refrigerator. “They thought he’d gone outside for a walk and didn’t find him until lunchtime,” said the source.

Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin acted by evicting the ‘evil’ TV. With the beer supply now exhausted, it was decided the refrigerator could go too.

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Shuttle delivers pool table, collects empties

The Age, August 31, 2007

By BOB KAWOLSKI

CAPE CANAVERAL

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Reformed cosmonaut shows evidence of ‘misspent youth’

Pravda, September 17, 2007

By YURI NAAL

MOSCOW

Reformed alcoholic cosmonaut Oleg Kotov has found a new way to occupy his time aboard the International Space Station. Since taking delivery of a pool table from the Space Shuttle Atlantis he has established himself as the station’s best player.

“It’s all he does,” complained American Clay Anderson. “First it was TV, now it’s pool. He’s obsessed. In zero gravity, the balls don’t always stay on the table. We have to wear helmets the whole time.”

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Astronauts tired of playing pool, long for TV, fridge, hookers

USA Today, February 13, 2008

By RON JEREMY

MIAMI

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ISS strays off course

The Age, February 19, 2008

By SUE SALIBA

CAPE CANAVERAL

The International Space Station made an unscheduled shift in altitude yesterday. It is believed that flight engineer Oleg Kotov tried to steer the ISS into the path of the orbiting TV that had been discarded several months earlier. He failed to retrieve the object during a spacewalk.

With the Champion’s League football season set to resume, it is understood the crewmembers are keen to obtain a TV. However, NASA has refused their request, explaining that with a pool table on board there was simply no room for an 84cm widescreen plasma.

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Pool table jettisoned from ISS

Chicago Tribune, February 20, 2008

By DON PORTER

CAPE CANAVERAL

NASA is downplaying rumours of insubordination by the crew aboard the International Space Station. “We’re fine with them discarding the pool table. It was all pre-planned.”

NASA expects any debris to eventually land in the ocean, but calculated a one-in-5000 chance that it could injure or kill a person or collide with any satellites.

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GPS downtime causes traffic havoc

Washington Post, February 22, 2008

By CLARE RENNER

CAPE CANAVERAL

Several malfunctioning satellites have thrown the GPS system into chaos. According to today’s press release, NASA is still to determine the cause of the problem. “Three have been knocked out of their positions by an unidentified object. We’re confident of finding the source; our best minds are working on this.”

This latest crisis comes as NASA struggles with funding cuts. Having already cut back on non-core projects, such as the tracking of space junk, they are in desperate need of new revenue streams.

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Probe misses ISS, cosmonauts unimpressed

Pravda, March 25, 2008

By ANIA WALWICZ

MOSCOW

Russian resupply freighter Progress M-69 has failed to rendezvous with International Space Station after being knocked off course by mysterious object in orbit. Onboard camera footage revealed that the probe was struck by a small black sphere similar in size and shape to the 8 ball from an American pool table.

The unmanned capsule, carrying 2 tons of food, water, vodka and toilet paper, was deflected by 5 degrees. It is now on a course for Mars.

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NASA shelves plans for Mars

The Times, April 1

By ROZ BERRYSTONE

LONDON

NASA has abandoned its plans for manned spaceflight to the surface of Mars according to programme leader, Jeremy Bruckheimer.

“We were already way over budget, plus it looks like the Russians have beaten us to it anyhow. One of their freighters is en-route to resupply a team that’s presumably already on the ground. They completely snuck under our radar on this one.”

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NASA signs sponsorship deal with TV network

The Wall Street Journal, April 3, 2008

By WARREN BUFFET JNR

NEW YORK

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Big Brother celebrity housemates arrive at ISS

Variety, May 1, 2008

By TRUDI MACINTOSH

LOS ANGELES

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Astronauts keen to return to Earth

The Age, May 2, 2008

By ARTHUR CLOVER

CAPE CANAVERAL

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Housemates request shuttle mission to ‘civilise’ ISS with wide-screen plasma, Diet Coke and ‘more stuff’

Variety, May 3, 2008

By TRUDI MACINTOSH

LOS ANGELES

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Crew abandons ISS

Washington Post, May 30, 2008

By PENNY JOHNSON

CAPE CANAVERAL

NASA officials were surprised to find three stowaways hiding in the cargo bay of the space shuttle Endeavour when it returned to Edwards Air Force base yesterday. The three crewmembers of the ISS spoke at a hastily convened press conference.

“We survived a pretty mundane existence up there for like 12 months, but the arrival of those airheads was the last straw. I would’ve spacewalked back to Earth if the shuttle hadn’t been there,” said flight engineer Clay Anderson.

Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin added, “I have known monkeys with more intelligence.”

The third crew member, Oleg Kotov, was less scathing, “The Hilton woman was quite nice.”

NASA is currently looking for volunteers to re-staff the station.

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Cast of Grey’s Anatomy joins housemates in space

Variety, July 4, 2008

By TRUDI MACINTOSH

LOS ANGELES

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Careers in doubt as stray TV strikes ISS

News of the World, July 12, 2008

By LAURIE CLANCY

LONDON

The longevity of several acting careers is looking shaky after the International Space Station was sent spiralling out of control yesterday. Seeking to reposition the space station for ‘better mobile reception’, the Big Brother housemates got more than they bargained for. A collision with a piece of space junk believed to be a Russian TV set means the celebrities are now facing a mass eviction.

The producers of Grey’s Anatomy are planning a special 3-hour retrospective with a soft rock soundtrack to be screened during the cast’s final moments should the station be irretrievable.

Unfortunately none of the show’s writers are on board.

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NASA says odds of ISS re-entry ‘a million-to-one’

The New York Times, July 19, 2008

By Dr. COSMO KRAMER

NEW YORK

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NASA facing huge payout

De Telegraaf, July 20, 2008

By DENNIS BERGKAMP

AMSTERDAM

The International Space Station has crashed back to Earth. The fireball did not land in the ocean as NASA had predicted, instead coming down on Hilversum where it flattened the corporate headquarters of Endemol.

The company that brought us Big Brother, Deal or No Deal, and many other favourites has been rocked. The bodies of founders Joop van den Ende and John de Mol were retrieved from amongst the charred remains of the Big Brother housemates who fell back to Earth after paying the ultimate price for their dreams of immortality.

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Season finales of Big Brother, Grey’s Anatomy ‘a huge success’

Variety, July 23, 2008

By TRUDI MACINTOSH

LOS ANGELES

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Another piece of junk

The Herald Sun, July 24, 2008

By ANDREW NUT

MELBOURNE

In yet another publicity stunt by NASA to seek funding for its scientists, they’ve staged an elaborate hoax using Hollywood celebrities. The ‘disaster’ is all very convincing. This conspiracy is right up there with Al Gore’s Global Warming swindle supported by the religious zealots of the left and others in the green shirt brigade. What the world doesn’t need is more so-called ‘experts’ telling us what to think.

As for the million-to-one odds offered by NASA of the supposed ‘space station’ coming back down to Earth, what happened to the space fridge that was supposed to hit us by now? I’ll bet 5 million-to-one it never does. Why? Because it simply doesn’t exist.

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Writer collects on long shot

The Age, July 25, 2008

AAP

MELBOURNE

Writer Steve Mitchell today collected on a $5 million bet when a noted Global Warming sceptic was crushed by a melted refrigerator. The fiery fridge from space crashed into the Herald Sun offices killing columnist Andrew Nut instantly. He’d been sitting on the toilet at the time of impact. Colleagues said he often sought inspiration for his blog in the cubicle.

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New theme park for Cape Canaveral

The Miami Herald, December 24, 2008

By DAVE BARRY

CAPE CANAVERAL

NASA re-opened its gates yesterday, albeit as an open-air space museum and theme park. Everything is big at ‘NASA World’: from the ‘Re-entry Roller Coaster’ to the overweight tourists chugging down triple cheeseburgers and buckets of cola.

The statues of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin are now flanked by those of the celebrities who perished on board the ill-fated International Space Station (and also, strangely, Ronald McDonald, due to the close proximity of the adjacent restaurant).

You may remember the housemates became the main course of their own celebrity BBQ during re-entry back in July.

One of the tour guides is former astronaut, Clay Anderson. He blames litterbugs for ruining his career. “If the station hadn’t been hit by somebody’s space junk, I’d still be an astronaut with a proper job.”

My suggestion that he was partly responsible for the junk that brought down the ISS was met by an unquotable rebuke, followed by, “What goes around comes around.”

As he walked away, I reflected on this philosophical gem. Never have truer words been spoken. It’s not rocket science: NASA’s downfall was a result of littering. And perhaps that’s the curse of the human race. Most of our contributions are junk.

Thankfully ‘NASA World’ has plenty of bins for the trash-producing hordes that will visit this wonderful facility. With all the major burger chains on site, larger parking spaces to accommodate SUVs (even the new Hummers), and Grey’s Anatomy souvenir space shuttles, NASA looks to be back on track to restoring American pride.

We can only hope the rest of the world remembers what almost brought this great institution to its knees and learns from that example.

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Chinese rocket to store nuclear waste in orbit

People’s Daily, December 25, 2008

Source: XINHUA

BEIJING