Retired NASA satellite to crash into Earth on Sunday
Some debris from a Chinese missile crashed into the Earth’s atmosphere over Malaysia.
A NASA satellite that spent nearly four decades observing the globe’s ozone and measuring radiant energy is expected to crash into Earth’s atmosphere this weekend, ending a historic run.
The space agency last reported that the budget 5,400-pound Earth radiation satellite was on track to begin the re-entry process Sunday around 6:40 p.m. EST, but could deviate from the estimated time by several hours.
Experts say that due to the friction and heat associated with reentry, most of the satellite will burn up, but there is a chance that some small components could survive the process and fall toward Earth’s surface.
NASA’s Budget Earth Radiation Satellite (ERBS)
The risk of coming into contact with any of the pieces is considered to be as low as 1 in 9,400, but NASA and the Department of Defense will track any movement of the debris.
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The retired ERBS was first deployed by the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1984 and its mission far exceeded expectations.
When it was launched, NASA originally hoped to use the high-tech machine for a few years, but the satellite remained operational for more than two decades.
During its operation, the satellite helped change people’s understanding of ozone and the important role it plays in protecting the Earth from ultraviolet radiation.
“Data on the ozone layer provided by ERBS was key to the international community’s decision-making process during the Montreal Protocol Agreement, which has resulted in a near-elimination of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in industrialized countries,” NASA said.
The budget Earth radiation satellite was launched in 1984 on the Space Shuttle Challenger.
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With more countries launching rockets and satellites, the threat of debris reaching the Earth’s surface seems to be becoming a growing phenomenon.
In 2022, the world watched as two Chinese rockets fell uncontrollably to Earth. The debris landed harmlessly over the vast oceans of the Southern Hemisphere, but space administrators said the events had the potential to be catastrophic if the objects landed in large population centers.
At the time, the United States and other circles criticized China for a lack of transparency and cooperation regarding its space program.
The Department of Defense is tracking more than 27,000 pieces of space debris that pose a far greater threat to human spaceflight and satellites than they will ever pose to life on Earth.