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Oops: Germany Almost Bombed Beijing with Dead Satellite

Last October, the German research satellite Rosat plunged into the Bay of Bengal, more than 20 years after it had been launched into orbit. But had it remained aloft for just seven more minutes, it would have landed in Beijing instead, new calculations show.

It was a proud day for German science when, on June 1, 1990, Rosat was launched into orbit from Cape Canaveral. The research satellite was chock full of the most modern technology available, allowing scientists the ability to search the skies for the source of X-ray radiation for the first time.

Rosat didn’t disappoint. Originally, it was to remain in operation for 18 months, but ultimately in collected data for almost nine years. The satellite registered tens of thousands of radiation sources, which included distant galaxies and black holes. . .


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