NASA Satellite Falls Harmlessly to Earth

NASA says Earth Radiation Budget Satellite reentered off the coast of Alaska
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 7, 2023 9:00 AM CST
Updated Jan 9, 2023 11:58 AM CST
Don't Look Up: NASA Satellite Is Hurtling Toward Earth
In this photo, the space shuttle Challenger launches the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite in 1984. On Friday, NASA said the 38-year-old satellite is about to fall from the sky.   (NASA via AP)
UPDATE Jan 9, 2023 11:58 AM CST

After almost 40 years circling Earth, a retired NASA science satellite plunged harmlessly through the atmosphere off the coast of Alaska, NASA reported Monday. The Defense Department confirmed that the 5,400-pound satellite—placed in orbit in 1984 by astronaut Sally Ride—reentered late Sunday night over the Bering Sea, a few hundred miles from Alaska, the AP reports. NASA said it has received no reports of injury or damage from falling debris. Late last week, NASA said it expected most of the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite to burn up in the atmosphere, but that some pieces might survive. The space agency put the odds of falling debris injuring someone at 1-in-9,400.

Jan 7, 2023 9:00 AM CST

A 38-year-old retired NASA satellite is about to fall from the sky, though the US space agency said Friday the chance of wreckage falling on anybody is "very low," per the AP. Most of the 5,400-pound satellite will burn up upon reentry, according to NASA. However, some pieces are expected to survive. The space agency put the odds of injury from falling debris at about 1-in-9,400. The science satellite is expected to come down Sunday night, give or take 17 hours, according to the Defense Department. The California-based Aerospace Corp., however, is targeting Monday morning, give or take 13 hours, along a track passing over Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the westernmost areas of North and South America.

The Earth Radiation Budget Satellite, known as ERBS, was launched in 1984 aboard the Challenger space shuttle. Although its expected working lifetime was two years, the satellite kept making ozone and other atmospheric measurements until its retirement in 2005. The satellite studied how Earth absorbed and radiated energy from the sun. America's first woman in space, Sally Ride, released the satellite into orbit using the shuttle's robot arm. That same mission also featured the first spacewalk by a US woman: Kathryn Sullivan. It was the first time two female astronauts flew in space together. It was the second and final spaceflight for Ride, who died in 2012.

(More space debris stories.)

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