WASHINGTON, Sept 24, 2011 (AFP) - A decommissioned NASA satellite, the biggest piece of US space junk to fall in 30 years, has crash-landed, but the precise location is not yet known, the US space agency said early Saturday.
The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) fell back to Earth between 11:23 pm Friday and 1:09 am Saturday (0323-0509 GMT Saturday), but the precise re-entry time and location "are not yet known with certainty," NASA said.
|AFP- This image obtained from the NASA/GOES Project shows Hurricane Hilary at 12h30 UTC on September 23, 2011.|
"The satellite was passing eastward over Canada and Africa as well as vast portions of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans during that period," it said in its latest update.
The US space agency has repeatedly said there is only a "very remote" risk to the public from the fragments of the satellite which were expected to survive the fiery re-entry into the atmosphere.
The two dozen parts that may have survived the re-entry could weigh as little as two pounds (one kilogram) or as much as 350 pounds (158 kilograms), NASA said, and the debris field is expected to span 500 miles (800 kilometers).
The tumbling motion of the satellite has made it difficult to narrow down the location. And given that the world is 70 percent water, an ocean landing was considered likely.
"In the entire 50 plus year history of the space program, no person has ever been injured by a piece of re-entering space debris," said Mark Matney, an orbital debris scientist at NASA.
"Keep in mind we have bits of debris re-entering the atmosphere every single day."