How to Behave Upon the News that a Satellite Might, Possibly, Hit the Earth Friday


Have you heard!? A satellite that’s been alternately described as “massive,” “bus-sized,” and “six-ton” is “barreling” — or possibly traipsing, stumbling, or lackadaisically meandering in its fancy shoes toward Earth. It’s going to take until Friday to get here, and if it ruins our weekend plans, we are going to be pissed! It’s expected to land “anywhere from northern Canada to southern South America,” and there’s a 1-in-3,200 chance of anyone getting hit with its debris, which, somehow, translates into a 1-in-20 trillion chance for “any particular person” to be hit. Before you get up from the computer and start pulling out your hair or eating a giant cake with both fists while shouting “What if it’s MEEEEE? I have the WORST LUCK!” — because what else are you going to do upon the news that a bus-sized satellite might, possibly, hit the Earth and land on you? — take a few deep breaths. We are here for you!

Here’s the deal with that satellite. It is called the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, or, more ominously, “UARS.” Also ominous, via MSNBC: It is “projected to make an uncontrolled fiery fall on Friday, plus or minus a day, according to NASA.” While much of the satellite is expected to burn up, about 26 parts made of titanium, aluminum, steel, and beryllium (things you don’t want hitting you, to the tune of 1,170 pounds) will probably survive the fall.

We put UARS up in the sky, so it’s bound to come down at some point. But the question is, what do you want to be doing when it falls, ushering forth a 500-mile debris footprint? If you are the person hit, do you want to be wearing your pajamas and blogging surrounded by pizza boxes and week-old coffee cups? Do you want to be cheerily watching Beverly Hills 90210 reruns, say, the Donna Martin graduates episode? Do you want to be…working?

  • The first thing you should do is to determine how you want to appear to the reporters who will track you down to your satellite-crushed hovel and find out that you were, indeed, in the midst of downloading the entire catalog of John Denver albums. These intrepid reporters will inevitably ask your friends and family about you and pull things off your Facebook page and generally invade your life, in your tragic, completely random death. (This might be a good time to change that Facebook photo, and to issue a memo of talking points to your friends and family.)
  • Next, pick out an outfit. Something stylish, but carefree. Something that says you’re not trying too hard. Something soft, comfortable, not too confining, and relatively clean. Something that says, “Fuck you, UARS! (But please don’t hurt me LOL.)” But not on the butt — that’s just tacky.
  • Stop saving money and spend! You have only two days for this sort of behavior, so do your best. That dress/magenta coffee maker/shipment of pot you’ve been eying? Buy it now. It’s good for the economy. Do you want to be hit by a satellite knowing that you were not doing your best for the economy?
  • Eat something. Eat that cake, with both hands. Eat a whole piece of pizza — throw out the boxes (see above). Gnaw on some jerky…turkey, beef, mix it up! Eat whatever you want. Do you want to be hit by a satellite knowing your last meal was an expired cottage cheese pot? NO.
  • Find Your Satellite-Might-Hit-the-Earth Boyfriend.
  • Go buy as many bottles of water as you can carry home from your surprisingly empty bodega. Why? Because you can! On your way home, tell as many people as you can about the satellite. Secretly enjoy watching them freak out. Mutual suffering means comfort; that’s what New York’s about.
  • Fill your bathtub with water and sit in it. Or just take a shower. It’s never bad to be clean.
  • Make a list of the people in your life you would really hate to see hit by the satellite. Call them and tell them about it. Sharing is caring!
  • Chuckle a bit over the type-size allotment of this MSNBC headline.
  • Wonder whether, if the satellite landed on your upstairs neighbor, that would be worth the damage to your apartment. Could it take him/her out, then make an abrupt twist left? Arrange not to be home that day.
  • Wonder why you don’t have friends with basements.
  • Wonder what the smoking baby is doing right now.
  • Don’t do something silly like packing a go-bag, taping your windows, confessing your sins, telling the truth, becoming suddenly motivated at work in hopes of a last-ditch promotion/raise effort, going on a diet, going to the gym, getting your moles checked, or making extra appointments with your shrink. Instead, focus on getting free drinks from bars by telling bartenders that a satellite might hit the Earth on Friday. THIS WILL WORK.
  • Worry a little, but only enough to make you clear out your porn stash or lo-mein dummy or first edition of Tropic of Cancer or whatever secret, shameful thing it is you’re hiding under your bed these days, so that your parents don’t have discover it after you’re gone and feel all awkward.
  • Avoid, at all costs, saying the words “bucket list.” After all, the chances of this actually hitting you are minimal, even though it is impossible to pinpoint just where UARS satellite debris will fall. (People who know these things more than we do seem to think the ocean is a good possibility.) But whether or not it hits you, you’ll be known forever as the asshole who said “bucket list.”
  • Take comfort in the fact that FEMA is on it. While they don’t plan to shoot UARS down, they’ll be providing “24-hour, 12-hour, six-hour, and two-hour predictions as estimates for the actual re-entry time are improved.” Think of how fun it will be to keep checking the FEMA website on Friday!
  • Read this, from a satellite re-entry action plan in early 2008:

    “Please keep in mind that the probability that it will fall upon the United States is low, yet we must be ready,” explained a FEMA communique to a network of first responders in 2008. “We will have six Federal Joint Interagency Task Forces located around the country ready to deploy the moment we know the impact area, responding to assist you in your role of immediate consequence management.”

    While worrying further about whether the satellite will hit you, largely because of the terrifying phrase, “immediate consequence management,” think about how you have a way greater chance of getting hit by a bus, and worry about that instead.

O.K., now we’re stressing.