NASA might say, “Watch out!”
Falling near you?
Sometime in September with a two-hour warning, NASA may sound an alarm for all inhabitants in a 500 mile stretch to watch for falling debris. A bus-size object will be breaking apart in the atmosphere with some chunks possibly landing on populated areas.
The odds are, you will not be struck. Then again, maybe you will.
“Dead NASA Satellite Falling From Space, But When & Where?
by Tariq Malik, SPACE.com Managing Editor
Date: 09 September 2011 Time: 11:27 AM ET
An out-of-control NASA satellite that is dead in space will plunge back to Earth in the next few weeks, but exactly when and where the spacecraft will fall are still a mystery, space agency and military officials said today.
The spacecraft, called the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, is about the size of a school bus and is expected to re-enter Earth's atmosphere sometime between late September and early October, NASA officials said. The nearly 12,500-pound (5,668-kilogram) satellite will fall over a stretch of land more than 500 miles (804 kilometers) long somewhere between northern Canada and southern South America.
"We continue to say late September is the best estimate that we can give right now," Air Force Maj. Michael Duncan, deputy chief of the U.S. Strategic Command's space situational awareness division, told reporters today (Sept. 9). " There are so many factors that will affect it between now and that point in time — the atmosphere changes on a daily basis — that it's impossible to say how that's going to impact this re-entry."
Even two hours before re-entry, the military will only be able to pinpoint the area of impact to within about 6,000 miles (10,000 kilometers), Duncan said.
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.
Johnson said 26 large pieces of the UARS satellite are expected to survive the re-entry and reach the Earth's surface. Altogether, about 1,170 pounds (532 kg) of material from the UARS satellite are expected to reach Earth. The largest piece of debris could weigh nearly 300 pounds (150 kg).
"Throughout the entire 54 years of the Space Age there has been no report of anyone being injured orimpacted by any re-entering debris," Johnson said.”