CAPE CANAVERAL (CBS4) – Heads up! The debris of a giant 6-ton satellite is getting closer to Earth and NASA is closer to knowing where, or actually where it won’t crash into the planet on Friday.
NASA’s old satellite is expected to come crashing down through the atmosphere Friday afternoon but the spacecraft will not be passing over North America then, the space agency said in a statement Wednesday evening.
The predictions should become more precise by Thursday afternoon and certainly by Friday.
“It is still too early to predict the time and location of re-entry with any more certainty,” NASA said.
An estimated 26 pieces, representing 1,200 pounds, are expected to survive re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
NASA is anticipating a splashdown rather than a crash landing. Nearly three-quarters of the world is covered with water. The Aerospace Corporation in California, in fact, predicts that re-entry will occur over the Pacific late Friday afternoon, Eastern Time. But that’s give or take 14 hours.
The 20-year-old Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, or UARS, will be the biggest NASA spacecraft to fall uncontrolled from the sky in 32 years.
It is expected to break into more than 100 pieces as it enters the atmosphere, most of it burning up. The heaviest metal parts are expected to reach Earth, the biggest chunk weighing about 300 pounds. The debris could be scattered over an area about 500 miles long.
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