A NASA satellite that has monitored the world’s ozone and measured radiation energy for nearly 40 years is expected to crash into Earth’s atmosphere this weekend, ending its historic run.
The space agency gave the latest information The 5,400-pound Earth Radiation Budget Satellite was on track to begin re-entry Sunday around 6:40 p.m. EST, but could be several hours behind schedule.
Experts say that most of the satellite will burn up due to the friction and heat associated with re-entry, but there is a possibility that some small components could survive the process and fall to Earth’s surface.
The risk of coming into contact with any of the pieces is considered as low as 1 in 9,400, but NASA and the Department of Defense will monitor every movement of the debris.
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The retired ERBS was first deployed by the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1984, and its mission exceeded expectations.
Initially, NASA hoped to use the high-tech equipment for a few years, but the satellite remained operational for more than two decades.
During its operation, the satellite helped change people’s understanding of ozone and the important role it plays in protecting the Earth from ultraviolet radiation.
“Ozone layer data provided by ERBS played a key role in international decision-making during the Montreal Protocol Agreement, which resulted in the near-phase-out of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in industrialized countries” NASA said.
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As more countries launch rockets and satellites, the danger of debris reaching the Earth’s surface is increasing.
The world followed in 2022 two Chinese rockets landed uncontrollably. The debris landed harmlessly over the vast oceans of the Southern Hemisphere, but space managers said the events could be catastrophic if the objects hit large population centers.
At the time, the United States and other countries criticized China for its lack of transparency and cooperation regarding its space program.
The The Ministry of Defense is watching More than 27,000 pieces of space debris are significantly higher than the potential threat to life on Earth for human spaceflight and satellites.
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