Satellite plummeting toward Earth - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Satellite plummeting toward Earth

COLUMBUS, GA - Imagine something the size of a school bus speeding through the atmosphere and crashing into your backyard.  That is exactly what could happen this week as an old NASA satellite plummets into Earth.

NASA says the satellite could hit either land or the ocean by the end of this week.

They still are not sure where it will make its crash landing, but they do know this is the largest piece of NASA space junk to fall to Earth in more than 30 years.

In 1991, the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite made its journey into space to study the ozone.  By the end of this week, it will enter back into the planet with a bang.

"The systems on board broke, and so, NASA was not able to communicate with the satellite which means they also could not control it anymore," explains Shawn Cruzen from the Coca-Cola Space Science Center in Columbus.

Cruzen says NASA probably will not be able to estimate where the bus-sized satellite will crash until a couple of hours before the hit. 

"It is definitely in a location where it will be coming over the continental United States," said Cruzen.

However, he does maintain that with the Earth's orbit, the space junk may fall in the ocean.

 NASA says most of the 12,500 pound satellite will burn up in the atmosphere.  However, about 26 pieces will hit either the ocean or land.

The likelihood of it hitting a person is 1 in 3,200 which gives you a better chance to be hit by a satellite piece than win the lottery or be struck by lightning.  For some people around the Valley, like Julianna Lovelette and Jude Alexander, those do not seem like good odds.

"It is kind of frightening to think that like with the statistics and stuff there is a possibility of it falling on somebody," said Lovelette.

"It is kind of a little bit scarier especially the velocity that it would probably hit the atmosphere and it would probably catch fire," said Alexander.

While NASA and local experts like Cruzen ca not tell you if the satellite will slam into the Valley, there is one last warning.            

If it does happen to fall in over your neighborhood, and you go out and pick up a piece, don't think you can sell it on e-bay.  Actually the government has issued a warning that's still government property.

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