Thursday, September 22, 2011

NASA science satellite to plunge back to earth Friday

ATLANTA, Ga. -- A NASA science satellite will plunge back to earth on Friday raining over twenty pieces of debris over an unknown region of our planet.

NASA said on Thursday the satellite will not fall toward North America due to it's orbital track.

The satellite known as UARS for Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite is expected to re-enter the earth's atmosphere on Friday afternoon EDT, and moments later, NASA states sections of the spacecraft will crash to the planet.

"The satellite will not be passing over North America during that time period," NASA's Brian Dunbar stated on Thursday. "It is still too early to predict the time and location of re-entry with any more certainty, but predictions will become more refined in the next 24 hours."

NASA and astronomers world wide will be following the craft's decent on Friday.

One leading astronomer at the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, Georgia has been following UARS's return for several weeks.

"UARS is a satellite which has accomplished it's scientific mission," Tellus' astronomy program manager David Dundee said. "It's a piece of space history."

The spacecraft was launched from the Kennedy Space Center aboard the space shuttle Discovery in September 1991, to begin a multi year mission to study earth's ever changing atmosphere.

In 2005, NASA scientists began to fire the spacecraft's thrusters to begin it's slow decent back to earth.

"Once you get to 100 miles up, the craft will begin to encounter different density's of the upper atmosphere which will begin to cause it to fall more rapidly," Mr. Dundee explained.

UARS was circling earth in a 115 by 120 mile high orbit as of Thursday, making one complete revolution every 89 minutes.

Dundee estimates between 24 to 36 pieces will make it to the ground, with around six of those weighing between 200 to 300 pounds.

A high resolution NASA camera located a top Tellus records in bound objects, as many as eight a night, and was ready to track the seven ton UARS had the craft's orbital track brought it over the southeastern United States.

Dundee expects pieces of the spacecraft to tumble into an ocean.
NASA stated today that there has not been any recorded injury to a human from a falling spacecraft to date.

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