A NASA satellite that has been monitoring the globe’s ozone and measuring radiation energy for nearly four decades is expected to crash into Earth’s atmosphere this weekend, bringing an end to a historic run.
The last reported space interval of 5,400 pounds of Earth’s Radiation Budget Satellite was on track to begin its reentry process around 6:40 pm EST but could deviate from the estimated time by several hours.
Experts say that because of the friction and heat associated with reentry, most of the satellites will burn up, but there remains the possibility that some small parts of the process could survive and fall toward Earth’s surface.
The risk of coming into contact with any pieces of debris is estimated to be 1 in 9,400 submerged, but NASA and the Department of Defense will follow any movement of the debris.
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Retirement ERBS was first deployed by Shuttle Challenger in 1984 and its mission far exceeded expectations.
When it was launched, NASA initially hoped to use the high-tech device in two years, but the satellite remained operational for more than two decades.
During its career, the satellite helped change people’s understanding of ozone and the key role it plays in protecting the Earth from ultraviolet radiation.
“Data on the ozone layer provided by ERBS was key in the international community’s decision-making process in the Montreal Protocol Convention, which resulted in the near elimination of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in industrialized countries,” NASA stated.
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As more nations launch rockets and satellites, the threat of debris delivered to Earth’s surface seems to be becoming more of an issue.
In 2022, the world watched as two Chinese rockets fell helplessly to Earth. The wreckage landed unharmed in the vast oceans of the Southern Hemisphere, but space administrators said the results would be catastrophic if the object landed in large population centers.
At the time, the United States and other countries criticized China for a lack of transparency and cooperation regarding its space program.
The Department of Defense has more than 27,000 pieces of space junk, which present a significantly greater threat to space flight and human satellites than they ever pose to life on Earth.
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