In September 2011, NASA’s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), which was launched in 1993 to study climate conditions, was falling to earth. It was expected to be, by NASA’s own admission, “the largest uncontrolled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere” in more than 30 years.
In the excitement, I penned a Prayer for Just in Case a Satellite Lands on Your Head. It was a pretty smooth prayer, I thought, helping to put one in the proper mindset for cataclysmic destruction of the world as we know it.
If you happen to have a copy of that prayer, tucked in the Family Bible or dog-eared, stuffed in a drawer under the Christmas gift receipts and the water bill, you might want to pull it out again. This time the threat is a European satellite which is falling out of orbit, and which is expected to plunge to earth Sunday night or early Monday.
“CBS This Morning Saturday” interviewed Jeffrey Kruger, editor-at-large for Time magazine, about the impending event. Kruger took the Understatement of the Year Award for his explanation:
“Whenever you have one ton of hardware coming down, no one knows where, that’s not a good thing.”
Kluger said that the satellite was intended to orbit at 160 miles, but on Saturday morning it was at 105 miles, and its orbit was accelerating.
“It’s 88 minutes to get around the world now,” said Kluger. “The faster it goes, the lower it goes. The lower it goes, the more it speeds up, and that ends in kaboom, ultimately.”
Kluger acknowledged that this satellite could drop “at any arbitrary point on the surface of the world.” Again, according to CBS:
He explained that there is little worry of being hit because 70 percent of the world is water and of the 30 percent of the Earth that is land only a small percentage of that is inhabited.
“Also, what will survive the plunge will be about, it’s estimated at 45 pieces of debris, none more than 200 pounds, and it’ll all land within a footprint of 190 square miles,” Kluger said. “Now, if that footprint is your house, if that footprint is Solider Field during a Bears game, that’s a very bad day, but the odds are that’s not going to happen.”
So here’s my advice, folks: Fuggedaboutit. I mean, that’s what I was trying to tell you in the old post, way back then, with the prayer. You never know when your own personal satellite-falling, end-of-life-as-you-know-it experience is going to plunge you into eternity; so the take-away from all of this is: