This comic is about disputed territories and polar orbits.
At mission control, the main controller is planning the next check-in with the space shuttle, which is set to occur at 32.0N 35.5E, approx 20 miles north-east of Jerusalem, over the hotly contested Israeli-Palestinian territories. Frank and the other off-screen character start to dispute the ownership of this geographical location, and rather than getting involved in an argument, the main character decides to change the check-in to 35.2N 96.6W, approximately 50miles East of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, which he considers to be a neutral and non-disputed location. Unfortunately, Frank is a dick, and he then starts to make the claim that part of Oklahoma in fact should belong to Texas.
In the title text Randall points out, correctly, that the satellite would probably require a polar orbit (a "vertical" orbit passing the poles of the earth with each orbit) to reach both Palestine and Oklahoma, which cannot be achieved from a launch at Cape Caneveral, as the launch trajectories would cause debris and spent fuel tanks from the Shuttle during its ascent to fall in heavily populated areas.
Thus, Randall proposes that the comic exists in an alternate history in which the Space Shuttles launch from Vandenburg. This is a reference to the plans to launch shuttles from there before the Challenger accident occurred. After Challenger was lost, the polar orbiting missions were scrapped and Cape Canaveral became the sole launch site for the Space Shuttle. Another possibility in this alternate history is that the rules forbidding orbital launches from Canaveral to a polar inclination don't exist, because nobody likes the Outer Banks (which would be in the flight path) and thus don't care about space debris falling on them.
- Cueball: Okay, people. The orbiter is passing south of Iceland. The next scheduled check-in will be at 32.0N 35.5E, over the Palestinian territories.
- Off-screen character: You mean over Palestine?
- Frank (off-screen): You mean over Israel?
- [Beat panel.]
- Cueball: I've rescheduled the check-in for 35.2N 96.6W, over Oklahoma.
- Frank (off-screen): You mean occupied North Texas?
- Cueball: Dammit, Frank.
add a comment! ⋅ add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ refresh comments!