In the latest sign of the paranoid times we live in, startled Southern Californians flooded 911 with calls Saturday night after the US launched its newest spy satellite into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base, forcing local fire and police departments to issue an alert clarifying that everything is fine and people shouldn’t panic, the Associated Press reports.
A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket carrying the classified NROL-42 satellite launched shortly before 11 pm last night. Every aspect of the launch appeared to run smoothly, judging by the launch webcast, which concluded about three minutes into the flight. The launch, which was visible across a large stretch of the state, prompted a rush of 911 calls and nervous tweets.
Odd sight in the sky just passed over us. Was it a comet.? A plane falling down.? A meteor.? Missile.? ????
— Fredy Magno (@Nicky_ZDR) September 24, 2017
Anyone else in LA see the comet/rocket looking projection in the night sky? Are we testing missiles or is there a very orange shooting star?
— Jono Zalay (@JonoZalay) September 24, 2017
As the AP points out, National Reconnaissance Office satellites gather intelligence for national security purposes. Right now, we imagine they’re primarily being used to monitor movements of missiles and activity at nuclear test sights inside North Korea. But they’re also used for other purposes, like assessing the impact of natural disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The United Launch Alliance, the private joint venture that supervised the launch, is a partnership between Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
— Royce Hutain (@RoyceHutain) September 24, 2017
Apparently, 911 received so many calls about the rocket that the LAFD issued an alert on social media advising people not to call for help.
— LAFD (@LAFD) September 24, 2017
Perhaps the war of words with North Korea has put people on edge about an attack, especially on the west coast of the US, which is believed to be within range of the North’s rockets.
The North on Thursday threatened to detonate a nuclear weapon over the Pacific in yet another provocation, prompting some people to worry that the US would have little choice but to respond with force if such a test were indeed carried out. But in the Trump spirit of fomenting diversions, we now at least have Trump’s feud with professional sports to distract us from the fact that he just once again threatened to “destroy” the North.