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Saturday, May 08, 2021


by Marsha Segerberg

You can keep an eye on the re-entry of the Long March 4B at Aerospace.

“Heads Up! A Used Chinese Rocket Is Tumbling Back to Earth This Weekend. The chances of it hitting a populated area are small, but not zero. That has raised questions about how the country’s space program designs its missions.” —The New York Times, May 7, 2021

The Long March 5B is tumbling out of control. 

A 10-story, 23-ton array of hurtling
rocket junk. Uncontrolled re-entry.
It’s a bus that went to a space station called Tiangong,
Chinese for Heavenly Palace.
Chances you could be hit are not zero, they say in the news.
Some time Saturday. Maybe Sunday.
Chicago is safe. New York City—maybe not.
I think it’s irresponsible, said someone from NASA.
Some people are not displaying responsible space behaviors.
said the press secretary.
A NASA satellite about the size of a school bus,
whammed back to earth in 2011, but only a 1-in-3,200 chance
anyone would be hurt. That’s what they calculated.
The Long March 5B could spread 10 tons over hundreds of miles.
Think about three pickup trucks’ worth of debris,
NASA said. Not so bad, spread out like that, right?
There was the Columbia, disintegrating over Texas. 
No one was hurt on the ground by the 85,000 pounds of junk. 
I wonder if that included the seven astronauts..
I wonder what their collective ashes weighed. 
There was the Challenger blowing apart after launch. 
Another seven astronauts. Several crew members
 are known to have survived the initial breakup
 of the spacecraft... no escape system... the impact
of the crew compartment at terminal velocity
with the ocean surface was too violent to be survivable.
You can visit the metal pieces in a museum.
There was Apollo 1 that didn’t even get off the ground,
so not to worry about falling mangled debris. Just
three astronauts burned up on the launch pad. 
We don’t count them as space junk. 
It was only a test.
They say they’re doing their best to stick ocean landings,
(except for the Long March 5B, for which there is no plan).
I wonder what the fish think.

Marsha Segerberg is a retired biology educator and member of COW (Community of Writers) in Phoenix, Arizona. Her poems have appeared in Chiron, Rat’s Ass Review, and Rogue Agent, among others. She lives in the Phoenix desert with her dog, Peggy.