A dead NASA satellite returns to Earth after 38 years in space

A dead NASA satellite returns to Earth after 38 years in space

A dead NASA satellite returns to Earth after 38 years in space

After nearly four decades in space, NASA’s re-tested Earth Radiation Budget Satellite (ERBS) is about to fall from the sky. On Friday, the office said the probability of ERBS wreckage harming anyone on Earth is “very low”. NASA expects most of the 5,400-pound satellite to burn up upon reentry. Earlier this week, the Department of Defense predicted that ERBS would re-enter Earth’s atmosphere at about 6:40 p.m. ET on Sunday, about 5 p.m.

While it may be a household name, the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite had anything but a dull history. Per Phys.orgthe Space Shuttle Challenger launched the satellite into space in 1984, just over a year before Challenger’s heartbreaking demise in early 1986. Astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly to space, released ERBS from Challenger’s payload bay using the spacecraft’s robotic arm. During that same mission, Ride’s crew member, Kathryn Sullivan, became the first American woman to walk in space. It was also the first mission in which two female astronauts flew to space together. As for ERBS, it continued to collect ozone and atmospheric measurements until 2005. Scientists used that data to study how the Earth absorbs and radiates solar energy. ERBS’s contribution to science is even more impressive when you consider that NASA initially expected it to remain functional for only two years.

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