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June 14, 1979 - Image 4

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Michigan Daily, 1979-06-14

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Page 4-Thursday, June 14, 1979-The Michigan Daily
FMichigan Daily
Eighty-nine Years of Editorial Freedom
420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor, MI. 48109
Vol. LXXXIX, No. 31-S News Phone: 764-0552
Edited and managed by students
at the University of Michigan
ban must remain
EN THE U.S. SENATE Tuesday killed
V an attempt by President Carter to extend
trade sanctions against Zimbabwe-Rhodesia at
least through Dec. 1, it demonstrated an obvious
lack of concern for inducing the white minority
government in the African nation to hold free
elections. It also showed the Senate's un-
willingness to support U.S. efforts to work for a
negotiated settlement between all parties in that
It is truly unfortunate that the Senate is asking,
in effect, that the U.S. join South Africa as the
only nation in the world without economic san-
ctions against Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. Although
Carter may still have enough support to sustain a
veto of legislation which would lift trade sanctions
immediately, the Senate's action is disturbing.
It is necessary to put economic pressure on the
African country's government if new election
guidelines are to be met, and Carter has opposed
the lifting of the sanctions for this and other
reasons. Removing the sanctions might also lead
the predominantly white government of Prime
Minister Abel Muzorewa to expect military aid in
its struggle against the Patriotic Front-two
guerrilla groups which were prohibited from
fielding candidates in the recent election. The
U.S. must avoid giving support to the methods and
racial composition of Muzorewa's puppet gover-
nment-retaining the current trade sanctions is
probably the most effective way to withhold such
Also, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance has said a
premature lifting of sanctions by the U.S. would
undermine the position of Great Britain as the in-
ternationally recognized authority in Zimbabwe-
Rhodesia. The British government is not expected
to lift sanctions until November, and any im-
mediate action by the U.S. in that direction would
seriously undercut the current British position.
In addition, removing the embargo might open
new opportunities for the Soviet Union and Cuba
to expand influence in Africa at the expense of
U.S. relationships on the continent.
And action taken to lift economic sanctions
against Zimbabwe-Rhodesia would be, as Mr.
Vance has said, "a retreat from the principles of
racial justice which we have striven to achieve."
.iSA C.LBERSDN ....o.................... Business Manager
ARLENESARYAN......Sales Manager
BETH WARREN ................ Display Manager
BETH BASSLER............ . ........... Classified Manager
STAN BERKMAN .,,,,Natinal Advertising Manager
RANDY KELLEY................ Operations Supervisor
PETE PETERSEN.............. AdertsingCo-ordinator

Falling Skylab fault of
NASA, stingy Congress

While National Aeronautics and
Space Administration (NASA)
experts continue to assert that
the chances of the Skylab space
station striking anyone on Earth
or causing any damage upon at-
mospheric re-entry are small,
several parts of the 85-ton, $2.6
billion space laboratory are ten-
tatively scheduled to plummet
through the atmosphere around
July 16, according to latest
estimates released late last
NASA scientists have said the
odds of any of the space station's
parts striking anyone are 150-1.
That is simply ridiculous. What
NASA officials are saying, after
one pnders these discomforting
odds, is that the chances .of one
person being hit by one part of
Skylab are one in 150, although
NASA didn't elucidate exactly
what they meant by these
shocking odds. Miles Waggoner
of NASA's Public Affairs Office
in Washington, D.C. says, "it was.
a bad understanding on our part.
It's more like six billion to one,
assuming there are six billion
people on the earth."
ONE PHASE of this fiasco is at
once amazing and frustrating.
Amid thernegativehpublicity
Skylab is receiving, the central
aspect of Skylab that most
laypeople fail to realize is that the
Skylab program is the most suc-
cessful project NASA ever laun-
ched, the Apollo program in-
cluded. The benefits reaped from
4he four Skylabs during 1973-75
are far too numerous to mention
here. One could fill the average
college economics textbook with
all the practical and
technological advantages from
the three-year program. Students
who use FORTRAN program-
ming language on the Univer-
sity's computer terminals should
understand to what I'm
referring. NASA helped write the
"Computer program translation
But no one is being informed of
the many positive aspects of the
Skylab mission because the
media chooses to dwell un-
necessarily on the fact that NASA
couldn't find a way to boot the
gigantic space station into a
higher, less-drag position.
Waggoner admitsathat Skylab's
demise was known as early as the
spring, 1978. But, unfortunately,
NASA officials thought they could
rely on the troubled space shuttle
for boosting Skylab's orbit.
Resting at California's Dryden
Flight Research Center un-
dergoing drag and aeronautics
tests, then carried piggyback-
style on a 747 jumbo jet to Cape
Kennedy, Florida, where it
currently sits, the shuttle has
been plagued repeatedly by main
engine problems. More recently,
surface panel complications have
arisen. NASA engineers are
tackling an entire new kind of

technology with the shuttle
because nothing like it has ever
been attempted. A test firing is
tentatively scheduled for
November and, with fingers
crossed, NASA technicians ex-
pect a February, 1980 launch.
BUT ONE of the most distur-
bing aspects of this episode is
that NASA has relied almost
solely on the shuttle for saving
the ship, which is about the size of
a three-bedroom house. In 1977, a
Tele-operator Rendezvous
System (TRS) was investigated
as a possible means of rectifying
the situation, but due to an unex-
pected increase in solar ac-
tivity-precisely what ac-
celerated Skylab's orbital
decline-this system had to be
Reliable sources at the Univer-
sity say that in the midst of the
Skylab program, NASA officials
asked Congress for a $15 million
in additional funds to attach a
booster rocket to the space
station for preventing exactly
what is going to happen.
Congress, as usual, turned down
NASA's request. So, if anyone is
to blame for this fiasco along with
NASA, one can point the finger at
Congress, which tends to scrimp
on the space program.
THE BASIC problem in
Skylab's sine wave-like orbit
around the Earth is that experts
cannot pinpoint where the
sleeping giant will land.
Engineers who launched Skylab
six years ago counted on a stable
orbit until 1983. But an unexpec-
ted and unpredictably high level
of sunspot activity-magnetic
disturbances on the sun's sizzling
surface-spoiled the orbit. Sun-
spots het the esrth's outer at-
mosphere, causing it to expand.
Because Skylab bps program-
med to orbit in a thinner at-
mosphere, the extended band of
more dense air pulled the space
station down faster than expec-
NASA and the North American
Air Defense Command's network
of 20 tracking stations world-wide
say Skylab has fallen 185 land
miles and continues to fall
several miles per week from its
original altitude of 273 miles. The
space agency is also counting on
the probability estimates to
minimize the danger from the
giant cylinder's unpredictable
descent path. NASA says water
covers 75 per cent of the potential
impact area. According to NBC
News, Skylab's current orbital
path enables it to miss North
America completely. NASA was
toying with the idea of slightly
correcting Skylab's path by
making it cross the United States,
the chances of it landing in water
were much greater. NASA didn't
go for the idea, saying it was "too

Even if Skylab should drop on
land, most of the 500 pieces that
are expected to fall would burn
up during atmospheric reentry
because they are so small. What
worries scientists, however, is
the larger pieces of the space
station, which is built mostly of
leftover parts from the Apollo
program. These pieces will not
disintegrate during descent,
among them a two-ton lead filled
associate administrator at NASA
who heads the Skylab re-entry
task force, says tests made in the
early 1970's show Skylab's pieces
will hit an area 100 miles wide
and 4,000 miles long. Lawyers
from the U.S. State and Justice
Departments are preparing a
system to deal with any damage
claims that may arise from the
impacting pieces of Skylab. Ac-
cording to Newsweek magazine,
under a 1972 treaty, the U.S. is
liable for foreign damage claims
resulting from falling U.S. space
Of the 4,636 objects currently in
earth orbit, Waggoner says,
"Skylab is the biggest of the lot
and most of the rest will com-
pletely disintegrate upon re-
entry. Whatever we send up there
(in the future) will be designed to
land back on earth like a jet or
else have a booster attached for a
controlled re-entry."
In the end, one can blame
Skylab's rapid and uncontrolable
descent on NASA and the
Congress. NASA can be blamed
to a great extent for simply not
havingenough preventative
measures set aside should
anything of this magnitude occur.
Depending on an as yet unproven
space shuttle simple isn't enough
and shouldn't have been done. No
one can be blamed for the unex-
pected increased sunspot activity
except -Mother Nature, and
dealing with her isn't always
A primary source for NASA's
problems is the Congress. They
simply don't allocate enough
money for what NASA needed to
do in the case of Skylab. There is
even an almost fully-equipped
Skylab standing on display in
Washington, D.C.'s National Air
and Space Museum ready to
launch with minor modifictions.
The resson for it's being in the
museum instead of in orbit? No
money to launch and the money
to launch would come from
Congress. The only thing both
NASA and the Congress can hope
for is that no one gets hurt by a
raining Skylab piece.
With Skylab's falling, NASA
should expect increased public
criticism while demands for
public scrutiny should rocket to
new heights;
Tim Yage covers science for the

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