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: Ceres bright spots sharpen but questions remain

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

New project aims to establish a human colony on Mars

5 hours ago

MarsPolar, a newly started international venture is setting its sights on the Red Planet. The project consisting of specialists from Russia, United Arab Emirates, Poland, U.S. and Ukraine has come up with a bol ...

Ceres bright spots sharpen but questions remain

May 25, 2015

The latest views of Ceres' enigmatic white spots are sharper and clearer, but it's obvious that Dawn will have to descend much lower before we'll see crucial details hidden in this overexposed splatter of ...

Rosetta's view of a comet's "great divide"

May 25, 2015

The latest image to be revealed of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comes from October 27, 2014, before the Philae lander even departed for its surface. Above we get a view of a dramatically-shadowed cliff ...

How long will our spacecraft survive?

May 25, 2015

There are many hazards out there, eager to disrupt and dismantle the mighty machines we send out into space. How long can they survive to perform their important missions?

Why roundworms are ideal for space studies

May 25, 2015

Humans have long been fascinated by the cosmos. Ancient cave paintings show that we've been thinking about space for much of the history of our species. The popularity of recent sci-fi movies suggest that ...

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.