Fun_People Archive
13 Oct
Millennium Meteor Fireworks

Date: Wed, 13 Oct 93 18:02:16 PDT
To: Fun_People
Subject: Millennium Meteor Fireworks

 From: D. Caulkins <>

The Millennium Meteor Fireworks Project
 Version 1.5         10/11/93     D. Caulkins

In seven years we will enter the next millennium; wouldn't it be
great if we had beautiful international displays celebrating
humanity's entry into the year 2000 ?

It is possible (and not very expensive) to generate very large
and spectacular world-wide high-technology fireworks displays at
a cost similar to that often spent on ordinary fireworks

This project fits the current international political climate
rather well.  Both we and the Russians have agreed to destroy
lots of ballistic missiles of various types.  What better way to
verify destruction than putting on beautiful displays for the
citizens who paid for the missiles ?

Millennium Meteor Fireworks might even be made to pay for
themselves; the producers of films, music videos, and rock
concerts could be induced to sponsor the project for publicity,
or if they were given rights to films and videos of the
Millennium Meteor Fireworks.

The idea is simple: use slightly modified ballistic missiles to
produce firework-type displays in the form of artificial meteor
showers.  Each Millennium Meteor Fireworks ballistic missile
could carry tens to hundreds of thousands of artificial meteors,
each one of which would make a meteor trail much brighter than
most natural meteors.

Ballistic missiles have throw weights (amount of payload they can
deliver on target) ranging from hundreds of pounds for smaller
missiles up to many thousands of pounds for ICBMs like the
Russian SS-18 and the American MX.  The expensive parts of the
missiles - rocket engines, guidance computers, and control
systems - are already paid for.  All that is needed is to replace
the nuclear bombs with inexpensive artificial meteors. 

The average 'shooting star' meteor with the same brightness as
the brightest stars weighs about 1 gram when it starts to enter
the earth's atmosphere.  The 'fireworks' artificial meteors
should be at least 10 times as bright, so each artificial meteor
might have a weight of 10 grams.  This means that an ICBM could
carry several hundred thousand, enough to make a very spectacular
display.  Even more spectacular artificial meteors would result
from higher weights like 50 or 100 grams.  There is a tradeoff
here between the number of artificial meteors and the brightness
of each one.  A range of sizes from small to large may be best.

When a Millennium Meteor Fireworks ballistic missile final stage
finishes its boost phase and passes beyond the atmosphere into
space, small chemical explosions would be used to disperse its
payload of artificial meteors into a cloud which could be 1 to 10
miles in diameter on re-entry.  This would produce tens to
hundreds of thousands of very bright artificial meteors, all
appearing in a period of tens of seconds over a place whose
location can be selected with an accuracy better than 1/2 mile or
so.  The size of the cloud would determine the 'density' of the
display; it would not be difficult to create a cloud which would
fill a major part of the night sky.

The videos of Scud missile re-entries during the Gulf War show
that even short-range less capable ballistic missiles can produce
'artificial meteor' effects.

Artificial meteors could produce colored trails as they re-enter
the atmosphere.  If made out of the proper elements, many colors
could be generated: blue (copper), red (strontium), green
(barium), yellow (sodium), etc.  If some artificial meteors had
layers of different color-generating materials they would change
color as they burned up in the atmosphere.  Note that the
artificial meteors need no special mechanism to produce a
spectacular display; any mass entering the atmosphere at a
velocity of about 10 kilometers/second has potential energy 15
times greater than that of an equivalent weight of TNT.  No
chemical reactions are needed; atmospheric friction will provide
all necessary energy.

The artificial meteors would need to have special shapes to
insure that they burn up completely while well above any man-made
objects like airplanes.  The ideal shape would be one which
stayed incandescent for as long as possible, but was guaranteed
to be down to a fraction of a gram at a safe altitude of 10 miles
or so.  A shape with holes or internal cavities would probably
have the right performance.  It might also be interesting to make
artificial meteors with aerodynamically active shapes that would
perform various maneuvers as they fell.  It is also possible to
have explosions.   Use larger weight artificial meteors that
would descend farther into the atmosphere and sonic booms would
be produced.  This may not be a good idea; people unaware of the
Millennium Meteor Fireworks might be alarmed by the explosions.

Safety would be a primary objective.  Each Millennium Meteor
Fireworks payload would be equipped with a radio beacon so that
it could be tracked and destroyed if it strayed off course or
failed to function as intended.

   437 Mundel Way
   Los Altos, CA 94022-1118
   (415)948-1474 fax

[=] © 1993 Peter Langston []