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posted: 4/12/2014 5:01 AM

Was Malaysian jet hit by space debris?

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After weeks of theories and postulates as to what happened to Malaysian Air MH370, I thought I'd provide an alternative theory. There are 5,500 tons of space junk in orbit around the earth from thousands of space flights during the last 60 years. That is 11 million pounds.

This debris is in pieces anywhere from hundreds of pounds to literally dust, but the portions of measurable size accounts for over tens of millions. Many of the larger objects are tracked, primarily for new space launches. Objects with sizes over approximately 4 inches are considered large. This accounts for less than 20,000 of the millions in orbit. Another 500,000 in the size range of 4 inches to a half-inch are known but not tracked, and those under a half-inch make up the balance of the millions.

Every year thousands of pieces of this debris pepper the atmosphere and usually burn up upon re-entry, but every year some reaches Earth. At jet altitudes this debris has not disintegrated. An object of 4 inches with a weight of 2 pounds could clearly rupture the airframe of an aircraft given the speeds of both the aircraft and projectile. This could lead to a cascade of aircraft system failures depending upon location.

In 1969 a Japanese ship was struck by space debris injuring several sailors, and more recently, in 2007 a flight from Chili to New Zealand over the Pacific, a LAN Airlines jet was within 4 miles of a piece of space debris that set off a sonic boom.

At the speeds of aircraft and debris, this is merely seconds from a disaster. Whether this occurred to MH370, I do not know, but I do believe this is a logical theory, and if not the cause in this case, certainly in the future.

Richard Francke


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