NASA UARS Satellite Falling From Space. Be Afraid.Posted: September 21, 2011
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.
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.