US satellite may crash back to Earth Sept 23: NASA

Sep 17, 2011
This undated NASA image shows a conceptual image of the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), launched in September 1991, by the space shuttle Discovery. Originally designed for a three-year mission, UARS measured chemical compounds found in the ozone layer, wind and temperature in the stratosphere, as well as the energy input from the sun.

A 20-year-old satellite that measured the ozone layer is expected to crash back to Earth late next week, but NASA said it still does not know where it will fall.

The US space agency stressed that the risk to public safety from the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) is "extremely small," and said that most, but not all, of the gear will burn up on re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.

"Re-entry is expected Sept. 23, plus or minus a day. The re-entry of UARS is advancing because of a sharp increase in since the beginning of this week," NASA said in a brief update on its website on Friday.

"Safety is NASA's top priority," it added, noting that throughout history, there have been "no confirmed reports of an injury resulting from re-entering space objects."

The decommissioned satellite could land anywhere between 57 degrees north latitude and 57 degrees south latitude, a vast swath of populated territory. Predictions will only get more precise as the landing approaches.

The UARS satellite was sent into orbit in 1991 by the .

The 35 by 15 foot (three by 10 meter) spacecraft weighed 13,000 pounds (5,900 kilograms) and toted 10 scientific instruments for measuring wind, temperature and . It was officially decommissioned in 2005.

"Although the spacecraft will break into pieces during re-entry, not all of it will burn up in the atmosphere," NASA said.

"It is impossible to pinpoint just where in that zone the debris will land, but NASA estimates the debris footprint will be about 500 miles (800 kilometers) long," the space agency said.

It also urged anyone who comes across what they believe may be not to touch it, but to call authorities for assistance.

Explore further: Cassini: Return to Rhea

Related Stories

Russia wants to build 'Sweeper' to clean up space debris

Nov 30, 2010

Russia is looking to build a $2 billion orbital "pod" that would sweep up satellite debris from space around the Earth. According to a post on the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos' Facebook site, (which ...

AURA satellite peers into Earth's ozone hole

Dec 07, 2005

NASA researchers, using data from the agency's AURA satellite, determined the seasonal ozone hole that developed over Antarctica this year is smaller than in previous years.

Recommended for you

Total lunar eclipse before dawn on April 4th

5 hours ago

An unusually brief total eclipse of the Moon will be visible before dawn this Saturday, April 4th, from western North America. The eclipse happens on Saturday evening for Australia and East Asia.

Cassini: Return to Rhea

18 hours ago

After a couple of years in high-inclination orbits that limited its ability to encounter Saturn's moons, NASA's Cassini spacecraft returned to Saturn's equatorial plane in March 2015.

Comet dust—planet Mercury's 'invisible paint'

Mar 30, 2015

A team of scientists has a new explanation for the planet Mercury's dark, barely reflective surface. In a paper published in Nature Geoscience, the researchers suggest that a steady dusting of carbon from p ...

It's 'full spin ahead' for NASA soil moisture mapper

Mar 30, 2015

The 20-foot (6-meter) "golden lasso" reflector antenna atop NASA's new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory is now ready to wrangle up high-resolution global soil moisture data, following the successful ...

What drives the solar cycle?

Mar 30, 2015

You can be thankful that we bask in the glow of a relatively placid star. Currently about halfway along its 10 billion year career on the Main Sequence, our sun fuses hydrogen into helium in a battle against ...

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

omatumr
2.2 / 5 (5) Sep 17, 2011
Thanks for the story,

Unfortunately, what goes up also comes down.

Let's hope that the trajectory can be better forecast as the satellite re-enters the atmosphere.

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
DiverseByDesign
not rated yet Sep 17, 2011
indeed.
jsdarkdestruction
3 / 5 (2) Sep 18, 2011
thank you for not spamming your nonsense oliver, i gave you a 3 because of it.
GSwift7
5 / 5 (2) Sep 18, 2011
Falling aircraft and aircraft parts are much more common and no less dangerous than space junk. We're all more likely to be killed by a co-worker with an AK-47 than space junk.

Joke: Besides, this thing isn't going to crash. It'll end up getting delayed and then get canceled due to cost overruns.
Bobamus_Prime
not rated yet Sep 19, 2011
"A NASA risk assessment places the odds of a human casualty at 1:3200. "
from SpaceWeather.com

Odds aren't that bad

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.