NASA Satellite To Smash Into Earth This Week
Danika Wilkinson
at 12:00 AM 19 Sep 2020
Comments 0
Space junk: An artist's impression of the UARS satellite
Space // 

A five tonne piece of space junk is hurtling out of control towards Earth and is expected to hit the ground sometime this weekend. NASA says that the defunct Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), which was launched in 1991 to study climate change, will make impact somewhere between 57° south latitude and 57° north latitude - basically the entire populated world.

But before you run for cover in your purpose built bomb shelters, know that there is an estimated one-in-3,200 chance of a piece hitting just one person in the world. That's one person out of our population of almost seven billion.

Most of the satellite will burn up during re-entry, but it is predicted that several pieces will survive. The debris will be spread across a 800 km linear field with the largest piece weighing up to a hefty 150 kg.

NASA will be able to predict the crash location within two hours of impact, but will still have an 8,000 km margin of error.

"There are too many variations on solar activity which affect the atmosphere, the drag on the vehicle," Nicholas Johnson, chief scientist for orbital debris at NASA, told the Washington Post.

"In over 50 years of [man made space debris] coming back around the world, no one has ever been hurt. There has never been any significant property damage."

The biggest NASA satellite to hit earth was Skylab, a piece of space junk that landed south-east of Perth in 1979. It was 15 times the size of UARS.

Scientists say that the pattern of debris will provide an insight into the eventual re-entry of the space station, which is 80 times the size of UARS, in the coming century.

[Washington Post]


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