First Person: The Sky Is the Limit

Remember the solar eclipse back in August? We all put on glasses we hoped wouldn’t scorch our retinas and stared right into the sun. We weren’t sure about the science of it all, but we looked anyway. Then, we went about our day just focusing on things at eye level as we are accustomed.

Well, no one talks about all the other mysterious stuff in the sky worth craning your neck over, but apparently it’s getting pretty crowded up there.

Last week, news reports warned that an abandoned Chinese space station was due to barrel through the Earth’s atmosphere. The story went on to say that this massive hunk of burning metal would land somewhere between South Dakota and Tasmania.

So essentially, they had narrowed it down to a swath covering roughly half of the world. There was an accompanying graphic, but the lines, numbers and teeny tiny letters made me have some re-entry issues myself.

This raises the age-old question. “If a space station falls in the woods and someone touches it, will it spark an international incident?”

The answer is yes. China may orphan their equipment in space, but here on Earth they are serious about no finders’ keepers.

And last month two pilots reported something strange flying above them. It was large, bright and had a big reflection. Air traffic control was adamant that no aircrafts were in that location. I guess having your phone in the cockpit to snap a photo is an FAA no-no. I mean, I am sure there is a no selfie/texting rule for pilots in midair but it would have been super helpful here. They ruled out a weather or Google balloon (more on that later) and all pretty much agreed that it was a UFO and went about their day.


This all took place over the desert very close to Roswell, New Mexico, which has a rich and somewhat entertaining UFO history. Roger that.

Now back to those balloons. Weather balloons are launched all over the world daily and drift along collecting data and often causing near misses with commercial jets. I’m no aeronautical engineer, but I am thinking that anything, including a weather balloon, crashing into an aircraft humming along at 500 mph some 37,000 feet in the air would be a very bad thing.

Ditto with the Google balloon. Google Project X was launched as a means of bringing Internet to remote areas. Of course, the whole “X” thing makes me think of the show the “X Files,” which makes me skeptical of the whole operation. In a lesson to us all, agents Mulder and Scully spent a whole lot of time staring up at the sky trying to make sense of it all.

The “X” people insist that the technology behind the balloons is so advanced that they not only provide the aforementioned Internet, but are programmed to land in specific collection points. So basically, unless you are a nomad wandering the barren desert, you are not going to get pummeled by a balloon any time soon.

Or so they say.

Add to this the drones, aircrafts and flocks of geese—oh my! The moral of the story is you don’t need a rare total eclipse to find something fascinating in the skies. But be prepared to duck, because it’s all gonna land somewhere!