A NASA satellite launched in 1991 is making its way back to Earth and the re-entry isn’t expected to be pretty. The expected crash time is slotted for later this week, but if scientists are off by the slightest amount, it could mean the difference between hitting Los Angeles or St. George.
Understanding where and when the massive six-ton UARS (Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite) will hit is an imprecise calculation. Currently, scientists are estimating the time between Thursday U.S. time and Saturday. The projected landing zone currently covers most of the earth. NASA is putting the chances at someone somewhere getting hurt at 1-in-3,200.
According to NASA record, falling space debris has never injured anyone, or caused significant property damage. Their reasoning behind that is our planet being covered in water and undeveloped land.
The satellite is expected to break into more than 100 pieces during its atmospheric entry. Though most of the pieces will burn up, 26 of the heaviest metal parts will likely meet the earth’s surface, the largest weighing around 300 pounds.
Along with this satellite, NASA plans to bring down the International Space Station sometime after 2020.
If space debris does end up somewhere near you, NASA asks that you don’t pick it up. No toxic chemicals will be present, but its edges could be sharp. Also, the metals are government property and it is against the law to keep or sell it. NASA’s advice is to report any findings to the police.