“NASA is Deorbiting a Satellite, but They Don’t Know Exactly Where or When It’s Coming Down”

 NASA is giving us a heads up, vague as it is, that there is something falling back to earth soon  and it’s bigger than a breadbox.
I recall, back around 1980 or so, Skylab came down and the DJs were all playing “Don’t Bring Me Down”  Time to crank up that old vinyl again.  NASA says another satellite is gonna burn up (well, mostly burn up) here end of this coming week or so.  The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) was taken out of service in 2005, well after it’s 3 year predicted lifespan. It was deployed by the space shuttle Discovery in 1991.  Gravity is doin what gravity does.I like the term “Deorbiting a Satellite”.  So much more comforting than the “Uncontrolled, unpredictable re-entry” language used when I first read about this sucker.  UARS is the size of a smaller style school bus at 6.5 tons and 35 feet in length. Hooray for all the re-entry friction and heat! It will be whittled down considerably, with only bits and pieces surviving the re-entry burn.

The debris that will survive re-entry is expected to lay out in a 500 mile debris field. This will likely be somewhere between 57º North and 57º South, or as most of us would say, between Canada and South America. NASA reminds us that so far, no one has been killed by falling space junk and  space junk usually does not hit heavily populated areas.  Satellite debris that makes it past re-entry, usually the heavier components, generally hits in a not-populated area. Phew, that’s a relief!

Hey, wait a minute… I live in a not-populated area somewhere between Canada and South America! Hand me my hard hat, binoculars, and maybe a drink!

And how do they know no one has ever been killed by falling space debris? Some person out sailing alone or on a wilderness walk-about might not have complained about being killed by a hunk-a-hunk of satellite junk.  Hmmmmm.Anyway, it’s a real deal and might make for some fun sky watching as this sucker breaks up and burns in re-entry. It’s as big as a small school bus, it’s gonna glow a bit. If weather is good, you might wanna keep your eyes on the skies come week’s end.

And remember, do not touch any curious smouldering stuff that might fall out of the sky. Call your local law enforcement if you see anything looking like half burned satellite bits. Me, I live where there isn’t much in the way of law enforcement, so I am looking for some kick-ass oven mitts between now and Friday!


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