Brace yourself: Another satellite is falling, and this time the chances are one in 2,000 that it’ll hit someone. A German satellite known as ROSAT is due to plummet around the end of October, and while a lot of it will disintegrate before returning to Earth, experts say 1.6 tons could make it back. The previous falling satellite, UARS, landed in the South Pacific, thankfully—but it had a slightly more reassuring one in 3,200 chance of hitting anybody.
So why isn’t there a better way to dispose of these things? asks SmartPlanet. Part of the problem is ROSAT’s tough build. “Generally speaking, whenever a satellite re-enters the atmosphere, about 20% to 40% of its mass actually reaches the Earth’s surface,” says an expert. But with its “heat-resistant mirror structures,” we may see more of ROSAT survive re-entry. NASA successfully tracked UARS, and the German space agency aims to do the same. But things won’t be entirely clear until just hours before the thing hits.