Dead NASA satellite will soon plummet to Earth

Sep 08, 2011 By SETH BORENSTEIN , AP Science Writer

NASA says one of its dead satellites will soon fall to Earth but there's very little chance that it will hit someone.

The space agency doesn't know when or where its 20-year-old satellite will drop. It will probably be in late September but could fall in October. And it could land anywhere south of Juneau, Alaska, and north of the tip of South America. says there is only a 1 in 3,200 chance of satellite parts hitting someone.

Experts say don't worry. In the more than 50 years of the space age, no one has ever been hurt by falling . The 6-ton satellite was used to monitor the . Most of it will burn up during reentry. Only about 1,200 pounds of metal should survive.

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User comments : 12

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that_guy
3 / 5 (2) Sep 08, 2011
I would like to point out that 1 in 3200 chance of the satellite hitting someone is quite high. If you are standing in a 3200 square foot house, and a small piece crashes through the roof, it has about that chance of crashing directly over your head...so...

Also, we need to stop having our satellites plunge harmlessly into the tundra. We need to start having the satellites accidentally hit official presidential residences in pyongyang, NK.
CHollman82
3 / 5 (2) Sep 08, 2011
Gravity is a harsh mistress...
Royale
5 / 5 (1) Sep 08, 2011
@that_guy

While that first part skews the statistics; I must say that I 100% agree with the second part. Especially due to the plausible deniability... we could just say 'OOPS we didn't have any control over that...' Haha, perfect.
ThanderMAX
5 / 5 (1) Sep 08, 2011
All figures below are for U.S. residents.
Cause of Death
Lifetime Odds

Heart Disease
1-in-5

Cancer
1-in-7

Stroke
1-in-23

Accidental Injury
1-in-36

Motor Vehicle Accident*
1-in-100

Intentional Self-harm (suicide)
1-in-121

Falling Down
1-in-246

Assault by Firearm
1-in-325

Fire or Smoke
1-in-1,116

Natural Forces (heat, cold, storms, quakes, etc.)
1-in-3,357

Electrocution*
1-in-5,000

Drowning
1-in-8,942

Air Travel Accident*
1-in-20,000

Flood* (included also in Natural Forces above)
1-in-30,000

Legal Execution
1-in-58,618

Tornado* (included also in Natural Forces above)
1-in-60,000

Lightning Strike (included also in Natural Forces above)
1-in-83,930

Snake, Bee or other Venomous Bite or Sting*
1-in-100,000

Earthquake (included also in Natural Forces above)
1-in-131,890

Dog Attack
1-in-147,717

Asteroid Impact*
1-in-200,000**

Tsunami* 1-in-500,000

Fireworks Discharge
1-in-615,488
that_guy
not rated yet Sep 08, 2011
@that_guy

While that first part skews the statistics; I must say that I 100% agree with the second part. Especially due to the plausible deniability... we could just say 'OOPS we didn't have any control over that...' Haha, perfect.

The first part only skews the statistics in that the one in 3200 is the total for all pieces of the satellite, and the example may illustrate it as a closer call than it may actually be.

I understand that it is still a very small chance, but the math still stands - the point is, for falling debris, that is a very high chance - just compare it to the odds for other debris falls from space to hit someone.
CHollman82
3 / 5 (2) Sep 08, 2011
There was a dumb show called dead like me where the main character was killed by a falling satellite in the first episode then was a ghost or something like that for the rest of the series...

I don't know why I'm posting this...
ettinone
not rated yet Sep 08, 2011
Not to mention what happens if it doesn't come down in one 1,200 lb. chunk? There is always a possibility during re-entry of the satellite breaking into two or more pieces that could cover a large swath of area increasing the chance of loss of life and property.
that_guy
not rated yet Sep 08, 2011
@ett - I would assume that their estimate includes the assumption that it will break up and multiple pieces falling to the ground.
Quarl
not rated yet Sep 08, 2011
@CHollman82

There was a dumb show called dead like me where the main character was killed by a falling satellite in the first episode then was a ghost or something like that for the rest of the series...

I don't know why I'm posting this...


Actually I think she was killed by a toilet from the de-orbiting Mir space station. Anyway, I presume your reason for posting was that S*** Happens and if you happen to be in the wrong place at the right time then those bad things can happen to you. Or you could have been thinking that the chance of you getting hit by a piece of space debris is considerably higher than your chance of winning the lottery...
MadLintElf
not rated yet Sep 09, 2011
http://www.space....ite.html

Boy hit in hand by Meteorite.

Hey, %hit does happen!
baudrunner
not rated yet Sep 09, 2011
Where did you study statistics and probability, that_guy? You could say the same about standing in a 3200 sqwuare mile area and you would conclude the same odds of getting struck by a pice of debris. What idiocy.
baudrunner
not rated yet Sep 09, 2011
For that matter, NASA should also have its knuckles rapped. Just exactly what does that mean, "there is only a 1 in 3,200 chance of satellite parts hitting someone"? What that says is that 1 in every 3,200 people are going to get whacked with a piece of space debris. Come on, guys. Smarten up!