Watch Hefty Satellite Tumble to Earth

| 22 Sep 2011 20:08

Remember the satellite that NASA said was going to hit sometime soon? Here it comes.

NASA decommissioned the UARS satellite in 2005, and placed it in a degrading orbit. Earlier this month, the U.S. space agency declared that the 6.5 ton satellite would finally be dropping to Earth soon but that astronomers weren't exactly sure where on the planet it would land. Most of the object would burn up in the atmosphere on reentry, but some of the heavier, spherical objects might survive and make it to the surface. An amateur French astronomer near Paris has improbably captured video of UARS as it tumbles end over end in our atmosphere.

The risk of human injury is very slim, with NASA calculating a 1 in 3,200 chance that someone will be harmed. That figure is much high than NASA's target rate of 1 in 10,000 but Mark Matney, a spokesman from the Orbital Debris Program Office, says that there is nothing to worry about.

"Populated areas are a small fraction of the Earth's surface," Matney said. "Much of the Earth's surface has either no people or very few people. We believe that the risk is very modest."

UARS is still much smaller than the Skylab space station which made its uncontrolled reentry in 1979 weighing in at 169,950 lbs. or 84.5 tons or a metric crapload. A few pieces of debris from Skylab were found scattered in Australian city of Perth, but no casualties were reported even though NASA had calculated the odds of such an accident at 152 to 1.

Even if parts of the UARS will most likely be obliterated, it's pretty creepy watching it fall on top of you.

Source: BBC

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