September 21, 2011
Satellite Crashing Into Earth In T-Minus ???
NASA said there is a 1-in-3,200 risk that a person who is minding their own business might find themselves being chased down by a defunct satellite the size of a tour bus traveling at 17,500-miles-per-hour.
Of course, the odds of that exact scenario are higher, but the space agency did warn of the potential risk of being hit by falling debris from its Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS).
According to estimates, the satellite will arrive back into Earth's atmosphere between Thursday and Saturday, and could find itself being scattered anywhere from Siberia to South America.
The 1,200 pound satellite will re-enter along a 500-mile path and should scatter 26 "potentially hazardous" pieces of debris.
UARS was launched in 1991 to help measure the ozone layer, wind and temperature. The satellite was officially decommissioned in 2005 after it suffered from being struck by a small piece of debris.
The satellite has been orbiting 140-miles above the Earth's surface from 57 degrees north latitude to 57 degrees south latitude.
NASA will be keeping a close eye on where it believes the satellite will end up breaking into Earth's atmosphere and landing.
NASA orbital debris scientists Mark Matney said predicting where the satellite will strike is like predicting the weather several days out.
He said experts expect to have a good idea by Thursday of when and where UARS might find its resting place.
However, because the satellite is traveling at a speed of 5 miles per second, a prediction that is off by just a few minutes could mean a 1,000-mile error in predicting the impact zone.
The space agency believes any odds of one person being struck are at 1 in 21 trillion.
Image Caption: This conceptual image shows the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, launched on Sept. 15, 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. Together, these measurements helped define the role of Earth's upper atmosphere in climate and climate variability. The 35-foot-long, 15-foot-diameter UARS was decommissioned on Dec. 14, 2005. Credit: NASA
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