The Pentagon is planning to shoot down a broken spy satellite that was expected to hit Earth in early March, the Associated Press has learned.
The Bush administration prefers to fire a missile from a U.S. Navy cruiser and shoot down the satellite before it enters Earth's atmosphere, U.S. officials said Thursday.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision will not be publicly discussed until a later Pentagon briefing.
Asked about the reports, Pentagon spokesperson Bryan Whitman said, "We have been looking at ways to mitigate the possible risk to human lives and to demonstrate our continuing commitment to safe and responsible space operations."
The disabled satellite was expected to hit Earth the first week of March. Officials said the Navy would likely shoot it down before then, using a special missile modified for the task.
The decision involves several U.S. agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department. Other details about the missile and the targeting were not immediately available.
One of the main goals of the satellite's destruction is to prevent any sensitive equipment from falling into the wrong hands.
"We are worried about something showing up on e-Bay," defense and intelligence expert John Pike said, adding that breaking up the satellite's pieces lessens the chance that sensitive U.S. technology could wind up in Chinese hands.
"What they have to be worried about is that a souvenir collector is going to find some piece, put it on e-Bay, and the Chinese buy it," said Pike, who is director of the defense research group GlobalSecurity.org.
The State Department declined to comment on the plan ahead of the Pentagon announcement, but said its role in such a scenario would be to inform foreign governments that the action was not hostile in nature.