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Indy Naval Officer Pushed Button That Takes Down Satellite

Last updated on Monday, February 25, 2008

(INDIANAPOLIS) - A naval officer from Indianapolis can claim a unique distinction. He fired the missile that brought down a wayward spy satellite.

33-year-old Lt. Commander Andrew Bates, a Purdue graduate with 11 years as an active duty officer, is back at Pearl Harbor now. He's awaiting reassignment after three years as a member of the crew of the guided missile cruiser U.S.S. Lake Erie.

This was the first test of anti-satellite weaponry, but Bates says it was actually just a new use for existing technology. The AEGIS weapons system uses a powerful radar unit to track as many as 100 targets at once. In this case it guided a missile fired from the surface of the Pacific Ocean to a successful direct hit on the satellite falling from its orbit around the earth.

The Pentagon has been tracking the space debris created by the strike. The pieces are believed to be no bigger than a football and the toxic fuel carried by the orbiter has apparently dissipated.

The government was concerned about a possible health risk if the fuel tank fell to earth intact.

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