Another satellite will re-enter Earth's atmosphere in the coming months

In case you were curious, that atmospheric research satellite crashed to Earth without hitting a single person. It landed in the Pacific—scattering bits and pieces over an 800-mile-long stretch of ocean.

But, if your great dream was to be killed by a piece of falling satellite, never fear. Phil Plait points out that you'll have another chance in a couple of months, when the German X-Ray astronomy satellite ROSAT is expected to meet its firery end.

Smaller than UARS — a little over 2 tons, as opposed to over 6 — ROSAT will probably have more pieces survive the ride down because its mirrors had to be shielded from heat to operate. That means the odds of it hitting someone will be slightly higher than from UARS, about 1 in 2000. Bear in mind that’s still really small odds! The chance of a specific individual getting hit are still something like only 1 in 14 trillion.

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  1. No news about whether ROSAT is coming down under control or not. If it’s under control then it’s not a big problem. UARS was completely out of control, which is why there was no way they could predict where it would land until about 2 hours after they noticed the splash.

    1. If it’s coming down under control, and if they were to aim for the Pacific. Would I increase my 1 in 2000 chance by going to Hawaii?

  2.  I wonder if they could set up some kind of recycling system up there… catch the defunct satellites and use the still-useful pieces to build others.  Surely the solar panels are still in perfectly functioning order, and they are fairly expensive to make an no doubt expensive to send skywards.

    1. … really?… I mean… REENTRY HOT.

      other than that “catching” it in space would waste resources, time, and you would wind up with outdated and potentially non-functioning components. Micro-meteor showers do a lot of damage. Then there is also strikes by other small debris from old launches. AND you would have to bring it back down to retrofit and ship it back up or ship up the repair parts and hope it is salvageable.

  3. There’s so much dangerous space junk in orbit right now, I wish more old satellites would re-enter. I think at some point there’s going to have to be some sort of ongoing mission whose purpose is to redirect defunct tech toward the atmosphere.

  4. This one looks like it’s powered by Briggs & Stratton. 

    To spiderking’s point, NASA may not have people dedicated to directing defunct tech down, but they do have people dedicated to tracking orbital debris.  (shoutout to my old school pal Mark)

  5. My google-fu tells me anywhere from 1 to 3% of the world’s surface has been urbanized.  That’s not 1 in 2,000.  Those sound more like the odds of it hitting an individual human on the noggin. A little misleading, I think.  And an 800 mile dumbo-drop along the eastern seaboard isn’t quite the same as banana-gamma cancer.  More than anything, though, I’m scared of math.  

    1. @boingboing-38d15f3f6091875e7c0ec844d37db656:disqus  “My google-fu tells me anywhere from 1 to 3% of the world’s surface has been urbanized.  That’s not 1 in 2,000.  Those sound more like the odds of it hitting an individual human on the noggin”

      Which is why they said “odds of hitting someone” and not “odds of hitting an urbanized portion of the earth’s surface”.

      “That means the odds of it hitting someone will be slightly higher than from UARS, about 1 in 2000.”

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