NASA: Watch Out for Falling Satellite

Half-ton of metal on its way to Earth
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 9, 2011 8:18 AM CDT

(Newser) – We’ve heard that quantities of space junk are past the “tipping point”; now NASA tells us pieces of a “dead” satellite will soon plummet to Earth. But don’t worry—there’s only a one-in-3,200 chance a chunk will hit somebody, the Telegraph reports. The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite was launched two decades ago and weighs some 13,000 pounds; about 1,100 pounds of metal are expected to survive the trip through the Earth’s atmosphere.

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The agency isn’t quite sure where the pieces will land, though they project surviving components will hit between 57 degrees north and 57 degrees south of the equator, an area that covers six continents and is home to billions of people. Time to panic? Nope, say NASA officials. “Things have been re-entering ever since the dawn of the space age; to date nobody has been injured by anything that's re-entered,” says one. Still, "that doesn't mean we're not concerned.” NASA says UARS will likely re-enter between late September and early October; you can check back here for updates on the exact date. (Read more NASA stories.)

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