Navy Hits Errant Satellite

US says it needed to act before it crashed to Earth with toxic fuel
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 20, 2008 9:55 PM CST
In this photo released by the Navy, Seaman Robert Paterson, of Norgo, Cal., stands watch next to the aft vertical launch missile platform on the USS Lake Erie in the Pacific. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Specialist...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – The Navy tonight struck an errant spy satellite with its first missile shot, the AP reports. A ship in the Pacific hit the satellite as it passed about 130 miles above the ocean. The military says it needed to destroy the satellite before it crashed to Earth because the toxic fuel aboard posed a risk. It will take a day or two to confirm that the fuel tank was destroyed, the AP notes.

Critics, including Russia, called the shootdown unnecessary and said the US merely wanted to test its anti-missile technology. The odds of the satellite crashing into a populated area and causing harm were tiny, they say. The mission became so sensitive that defense chief Robert Gates himself made the final decision on when to fire the missile.