Outdated satellite expected to hit earth

by erveziaL on Oct. 05th, 2011

During the last two decades, the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite was revolving about Earth. The satellite arrived at what National Aeronautics and Space Administration called "the end of a productive scientific life" a full six years ago. The atmosphere of Earth will burn up most of UARS when it passes down to the planet. Several huge pieces, however, are expected to strike land. Source of article: UARS satellite pieces have 1 in 3,200 chance of hitting Earth

A lengthy lived life

In 1991, the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite was put into orbit. The satellite was meant to study the Earth's atmosphere, specifically the ozone layer. The UARS was not supposed to last long. It was only supposed to be around three years at first. UARS had 60 percent of instruments still working after 14 years, but NASA decided shutting it down was the best option. There was gold foil-like material covering most of UARS which is the size of a bus.

Concern with re-entry

NASA explained that the satellite is a “heavily decaying orbit.” Between September 22 and 24, the UARS is expected to get back to the Earth’s atmosphere. There will be up to 100 pieces of the satellite that won't melt away, although the atmosphere is expected to burn up most of it. The portions might be very heavy. They might weigh as much as 300 pounds. National Aeronautics and Space Administration believes that UARS most likely won’t hit ground. There's a 1 in 3,200 chance any piece will hit the ground. The only continent that is not within the fall zone is Antarctica. There is a 1 in 20 trillion chance that each piece will hit a person.

Two hours to get away

National Aeronautics and Space Administration is providing hourly updates on the status of the UARS satellite. Even with that, the best estimate is that NASA will be able to provide two hours' warning on the UARS re-entry. UARS is falling fast. This is because of the solar activity going on. The increased solar activity is also blamed for troubles with communications satellites. Though UARS is falling from the sky easily, it is just one of the estimated 22,000 portions of "space junk" revolving about the earth.

Articles cited

MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44580262/ns/technology_and_science-space/#.T...

NPR: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2011/09/19/140598814/space-junk-will...

NASA.gov: (PDF) http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/585584main_UARS_Status.pdf

Slatest: http://slatest.slate.com/posts/2011/09/19/uars_climate_satellite_expecte...

LA Times: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/nationnow/2011/09/space-junk-expert-on-w...

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