NASA UARS Satellite Falling From Space. Be Afraid.

Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite

One big chunk, or twenty-six small ones? (Image via Wikipedia)

NASA has announced that a satellite called the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) would be falling to earth on Friday. There isn’t much to worry about though. It weighs six tons, but scientists expect most of it to burn up in the atmosphere.

It will burn up before it lands, except for twenty-six pieces “between tens of pounds to a few hundred pounds” that will hit the earth. These twenty-six are made of metals that have higher melting temperatures than the aluminum parts  that will burn up in the atmosphere. The intent of telling us this is to reassure us. It isn’t reassuring. Let us examine why.

A male African Elephant can grow to as large as six tons, the same as the intact UARS satellite. And for the sake of argument, let’s say the chair you’re sitting in weighs 20 pounds. If you were dropping stuff out of a plane over my head, I would be more comfortable if you dropped one elephant instead of twenty-six chairs. I have a pretty good track record of seeing big things, I think I’d see your elephant in time to avoid it.  In fact, every time I’ve been around an elephant I was able to spot it without trouble.  Twenty six chairs are a different story. If I saw one coming, chances are that I would dodge right into the path of another speeding chair.

African Elephant, Safari Ramat Gan, Israel

Twenty six chairs or one elephant? You decide (Image via Wikipedia)

Now lets add a new dimension. Your elephant and chairs are burning when you drop them from the plane. Aluminum burns at 6920 degrees Fahrenheit. We know that all the aluminum parts of the satellite will burned on reentry, any of the twenty-six pieces that survive would be able to withstand at least 6920 degrees. So let’s round upward and say that your elephant and chairs are falling toward me and burning at 7000 degrees. With the added dimension of intense heat, I still would rather you try to drop the elephant on me than the chairs.

The same principles apply to this satellite. I’ll take my chances against the entire space craft. Twenty six pieces just make me twenty-six times as likely to be killed by NASA. I hope we can convince our rocket scientists to put a little time and money into fire proofing the next thing they shoot up over our heads.

One big chunk, NASA, that’s all I ask.

Failure is not an option.

To track the one big chunk of satellite you can go here. Give it time, it loads a little slowly. The last time I looked it was moving at 4.6 miles per second!

Here is a second link to see where the satellite is. It is the same map as above, but lacks the altitude and speed details of the first link.


33 Comments on “NASA UARS Satellite Falling From Space. Be Afraid.”

  1. Jason says:

    I compare this to The Rapture for some reason. But with The Rapture, I thought of it as a huge, ridiculous joke. I’m scared to death of Satellitegate though. I will probably be hiding in my basement (like most bloggers do anyway) underneath forty blankets until I hear that I’m safe.

  2. Lenore Diane says:

    The science and astrology – er – I mean astronomy geek inside of me is a little excited about this whole satellite plummeting to earth at a high rate of speed breaking into many pieces and landing somewhere – anywhere on this earth.

    But the other part of me – the Mom of two and happily married wife is a little more concerned about the safety of my family, as well as others.

    Just shows to go ya .. or something like that … science will never have all the answers. Try as we may, we cannot control (or know) everything.

    Meanwhile the geek in me looks to the sky and as PublicWorks wrote, “Oooooh! Aaaaaah! OW!”

  3. Jane says:

    I know you are serious, but I laughed out loud reading this, especially, ” In fact, every time I’ve been around an elephant I was able to spot it without trouble.”

  4. What I thought stinks is if you are lucky enough to find a piece and not be KILLED by it you can’t keep it, sell it or even touch it. NASA says it’s government property and not to try to pick it up because it might be “sharp.” But if I find a piece, I’m still probably going to pick it up 🙂 I’ll turn it in and all but not until I get a good look at it

  5. Blogdramedy says:

    I’ve never clicked “go here” so fast in my life. I wonder how many people will be walking around Friday looking up? 🙂

  6. We found him Captain!! says:

    I’m not going anywhere on Friday without my umbrella. On second thought maybe I’ll just wear my football helmet and sit in the bathtub until all the pieces are accounted for. Call me when it’s over.

  7. Wouldn’t this be a good time for them to practice blowing things out of the sky for when the big asteroid comes our way?

  8. Laura says:

    “In fact, every time I’ve been around an elephant I was able to spot it without trouble.”

    How do you know?

  9. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    That thing looks like it’s made of shiny paper foil. How could that hurt anyone? An elephant, yeah, but not that thing. Anyway, apparently the chance of my getting beaned is one in 20 trillion. I’m far more concerned about the poopie hitting the fan and spraying me if Guv Parry gets elected POTUS. I’ll be a goner if that happens.

  10. AiXeLsyD13 says:


    Aluminum burns at 6920 degrees Fahrenheit.

    I’ve melted aluminum mountain pie irons in a campfire. My campfires are awesome, but I don’t think I’ve hit 6920°. Aren’t campfires in the 800° – 1500° range?

    That being said, I wouldn’t want to be pelted with a melting ball of aluminum from the sky… elephant-sized or pea-sized.

    What if you were/are inside while the pieces are falling & would never see it coming?

  11. Todd Pack says:

    NASA: “You wanna slash our budget? Fine. I understand your predicament, but if we don’t have any money, there’s no way we can guarantee all these satellites will stay up there, you know? How’s your family? The kids OK? That’s great. You know, it would be a real shame if 7,000 pounds of burning space junk fell on them. Your youngest is 7, right? Goes to Caspar Weinberger Elementary, right? Yeah, it would be a real shame if she were to get crushed beneath 7,000 pounds of flaming space junk while she’s standing in the bus line.”

  12. You are so cutting edge. This was in my “Quote of the Day” email:

    >>Did you know that today is Elephant Appreciation Day? Take time today to work towards preserving elephants and other wild animals.<<

    …or duck as they fly by your passenger-side window….

  13. Luda Kristen says:

    I hope the falling chairs are those flimsy wicker outdoorsy ones and not, like, solid oak kitchen tables.

  14. I’d rather have one elephant, too. What is NASA thinking? You should work for them. At least for the day. And then they can rehire you when the next satellite falls, too.

  15. Pie says:

    Can I just say that I am very disappointed the satellite and his 25 children had not come raining down on Blighty. As I sit here in front of my mac on a Friday Night with just over an hour to go before I say hello to Saturday, I have neither seen the fireball, or heard the sharp whistle which would’ve accompanied the group if it had hurtled towards us in an Armageddon stylee. I was wearing my protective skater helmet, ready and waiting, full of the spirit of the Blitz (and maybe some vodka).

    What a let down.

  16. planetross says:

    There was an extra chair at work on Monday. Should I call NASA?

So, what's on your mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s