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NASA hazy about satellite crash news
23 September 2011

Sometime late today, or possibly early Saturday, a defunct NASA satellite is expected to make its final journey back to earth spraying a certain amount of debris over the planet, including a chunk weighing over 300 pounds.

As for the likely area of crash, NASA continues to be hazy, marking broad swathes of the planet as likely touchdown areas. Even as some were irritated by NASA's obscure predictions others felt NASA knew pretty well what the impact area was but as part of shrewd disaster management procedure they were not keen on advertising the fact.

In an era of swift travel NASA is likely not interested in thousands of people congregating in the impact area waiting to get knocked on their heads with chunks of burnt-out satellite hardware.

By Thursday evening, NASA was predicting a splash down for the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) somewhere in the desolate South Pacific. But if the UARS should crash 20-25 minutes later then the crash would take place over North America.

Earlier, the predictions were that the UARS would come in several hours earlier and re-enter the atmosphere just off the west coast of South America. So, the guessing game continues and NASA is doing very little to be helpful in this regard.

Experts point out that the UARS circles the planet in a little more than 1 1/2 hours and just a small change in the re-entry time will result in a difference of thousands of miles of in the impact location.

On Thursday, the satellite was floating barely more than 100 miles up in space and was steadily losing speed and altitude. According to experts, about 42 miles above the surface, the UARS would probably break up with the aluminium frame melting away.

The next thing likely to happen would be explosions in the fuel tanks. NASA expects UARS to break into about 100 pieces which would fireball across the sky, visible for hundreds of miles.

About 26 of those pieces should survive re-entry and crash to the surface, with the largest chunk weighing more than 300 pounds.

NASA puts the odds of even one human being, somewhere, being injured at 1 in 3,200.

As a naughty blogger out in cyber space observes this means the chances of someone getting hit were fairly bright as the odds of winning a lottery are far more formidable.


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NASA hazy about satellite crash