Will You Be The One?

Reply Mon 19 Sep, 2011 06:50 pm
Will you be the one that finds some space debris that survived re-entry? Will you be the unlucky first one to ever get hit by such space debris?


September 19th, 2011
01:12 PM ET

Satellite expected to re-enter Earth's atmosphere Friday, NASA says

A NASA satellite is expected to re-enter Earth's atmosphere on or around Friday, September 23, according to NASA officials on Monday.

Re-entry of NASA's Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, or UARS, was originally expected in late September or early October 2011, almost six years after its mission was complete.

"As of Sept. 18, 2011, the orbit of UARS was 133 mi by 149 mi (215 km by 240 km). Re-entry is expected Sept. 23, plus or minus a day," NASA wrote Monday in an update.

The satellite will break into pieces during re-entry, and not all of it will burn up in the atmosphere. The risk to public safety or property is extremely small, NASA says.

"Since the beginning of the Space Age in the late-1950s, there have been no confirmed reports of an injury resulting from re-entering space objects. Nor is there a record of significant property damage resulting from a satellite re-entry," NASA says.

UARS is 35 feet long, 15 feet in diameter, and weighs 13,000 pounds, according to the satellite's website.

NASA advises that if you find something that may be a piece of UARS, do not touch it and contact local law enforcement.



As of Sept. 8, 2011, the orbit of UARS was 152 miles by 171 miles (245 km by 275 km) with an inclination of 57 degrees. Because the satellite's orbit is inclined 57 degrees to the equator, any surviving components of UARS will land within a zone between 57 degrees north latitude and 57 degrees south latitude. It is impossible to pinpoint just where in that zone the debris will land, but NASA estimates the debris footprint will be about 500 miles long.
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Reply Mon 19 Sep, 2011 06:54 pm
By the way, this is the comment written to go along with the story on CNN's Facebook page:

Almost 6 years after its mission is complete, NASA’s UARS will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere, with a 1 in 3000 chance of a piece hitting any one person.

So, according to CNN's math, your chances of being the one are pretty good. Of course, there is a lot of laughter and a huge debate going on between wannabe math wizards on Facebook over the validity of such numbers.
Reply Mon 19 Sep, 2011 07:19 pm
I am pretty sure that is a mistake Butrflynet.

The number I heard on NPR is that there is a 1 in 3000 chance that anyone will get hit. This means that most likely no one on Earth will be hit and the chance that you or anyone you know will be hit is astronomically small.

A 1 in 3000 chance that anyone would get hit is a huge number. It would mean that literally millions of people worldwide would die and probably someone you know would be hit.

Reply Mon 19 Sep, 2011 07:35 pm
There is a 1-in-3,200 chance that a person somewhere on Earth could be hit by falling satellite debris, but the odds of the UARS spacecraft re-entering over a populated area are extremely remote, NASA officials said. [Space Junk FAQ: Falling Space Debris Explained]

"So those are actually very, very low odds that anyone is going to be struck by a piece of debris," said Nick Johnson, the chief scientist of NASA's Orbital Debris Program at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston.


After a quick googling it is clear that the idea that millions of people could be hit is a misunderstanding. There is a 99.97% chance that not a single person on Earth will be hit. If anyone is hit (there is 00.03% chance) it will be a single unlucky person out of the 6 billion of us.

You can rest easy now.

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Reply Mon 19 Sep, 2011 07:53 pm
Exactly why so many are making fun of CNN on Facebook at the moment. Laughing
Lustig Andrei
Reply Tue 20 Sep, 2011 12:26 am
I've been making fun of NASA for years and nobody's paid any attention.
Reply Tue 20 Sep, 2011 12:44 am
@Lustig Andrei,
NASA had it right, it was the CNN copy writer's interpretation of those numbers that was so hilariously written on Facebook.
Reply Tue 20 Sep, 2011 06:27 am
When Skylab was falling, my family and I were on one of those interminable car trips. So to pass the time, we made a list of the people we really hoped Skylab would hit. We started with Donny and Marie and eventually included the entire state of Utah. When it fell into the ocean near Australia, we were semi-vindicated. The person who came closest to being hit was Olivia Newton-John.
Reply Tue 20 Sep, 2011 06:30 am
Very Happy
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