Retired NASA satellite crashes into Earth on Sunday
A NASA satellite that spent nearly four decades observing Earth’s ozone layer and measuring radiant energy is expected to crash into Earth’s atmosphere this weekend, ending a historic run.
The space agency last reported the 5,400-pound Earth Radiation Budget Satellite was on track to begin its reentry process Sunday around 6:40 p.m. EST, but could be several hours off its estimated time.
Experts say that due to the friction and heat associated with reentry, most of the satellite will burn up, but there remains the possibility that some small components could survive the process and fall to Earth’s surface.
The risk of coming into contact with any of the pieces is considered low at 1 in 9,400, but NASA and the Department of Defense will monitor any movement of the debris.
The retired ERBS was originally deployed by the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1984 and its mission far exceeded expectations.
At launch, NASA initially hoped to use the high-tech machine for a few years, but the satellite remained operational for more than two decades.
During its run, the satellite helped change man’s understanding of ozone and the important role it plays in protecting Earth from ultraviolet radiation.
“Ozone layer data provided by ERBS was key in the international community’s decision-making process during the Montreal Protocol Agreement, which has resulted in a near-elimination of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in industrialized countries,” stated NASA.
As more countries launch rockets and satellites, the threat of debris reaching the Earth’s surface seems to be growing.
In 2022, the world was watching two Chinese missiles fell to Earth uncontrollably. The debris landed harmlessly over the southern hemisphere’s vast oceans, but space officials said the events could be catastrophic if objects crash into major population centers.
At the time, the United States and other provinces criticized China for its lack of transparency and cooperation regarding its space program.
The Ministry of Defense follows more than 27,000 pieces of space debris posing a significantly greater threat to human spaceflight and satellites than ever before to life on Earth.
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