WE WHERE STRUCK, figuratively, by the recent decision of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to abandon its efforts to stop Skylab from crashing to earth. Skylab, you'll remember, is the 85-ton space station we paid so much for, orginally designed as a stopover for astronauts, and other galactic high jinks. When it took its first spin in 1973, NASA expected that a Space Shuttle mission would eventually boost the thing into a higher, and safer, orbit. Buy now, thanks to repeated delays in the Space Shuttle project, Skylab will simply be allowed to bite the dust. If they call this "space adminstration," we'll eat our hat.
On second thought, we'll wear our hat, since from all predictive accoutns, Skylab will fall, around May 1979. May is a lovely month in Washington. The azaleas are in bloom. The dogwoods are in bloom. And this May, falling among the blooming azeleas and dogwoods, may be a steel and lead construction 22 feet in diameter and 118 feet long. What's more, it may fall on you. What's worse, it may fall on us.
What is possible is that it may fall on both you and us since there are two big chunks of Skylab that are unlikely to disintergrate when the little devils hits our atmosphere. Both chunks are ominously named-the "airlock shroud" and the "film vault." And each weighs about 2 1/2 tons. At that weight, and from that height, the airlock shroud will be falling at a speed of approximately 300 milles per hour, which will allow it to drill a hole in the ground the sizeof a couple of tennis courts. Nothing like that has hit this town in two administrations.
But what-us worry?NASA has assured us that most of Skylab will break up inot bite-size, 10-pound pieces, about 400 of them, which will spread over a path 4,000 miles long. Besides; "the probability of injury or damage is less than that of meteorites"-whatever that means. It seems that NASA is being awfully callous about this. Were we not good to NASA on the way up? Might they not have beenbetter to us on the way down?
Well, let the chips fall where they may. On the ocean, we hope. Or, if not there, then on the desert. And only under the most unfortunate circumstances may they fall on 400 Maryland Ave. Sw, Washington, D.C. 20546.