NASA’s bus-sized Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite is out of control and headed toward earth. It is expected to rain down on Friday, September 23, 2011. Scientists expect this thing will turn into 2 dozen pieces of debris as it heads toward our heads. That's 24 space pieces.
Nicholas Johnson is the head of NASA’s Orbital Debris Program. That’s a kind of awesome job title. He estimates the odds of getting splattered all over the sidewalk by a piece of this satellite debris are 1 in 3200. People who know how to do fancy math say this translates into a “1-in-20 trillion risk for any particular person.” Johnson isn’t going to waste his time getting more specific than that. What Johnson will be doing is issuing updates along the way for whether or not your number is up.
“Most” of the satellite is going to be devoured by the fiery jowls of earth’s atmosphere. What isn’t will fall to the earth’s surface where human beings walk around, play video games, and generally screw around. The biggest chunk that is expected to be heading toward the surface of the earth weighs "as much as a refrigerator.” Don’t worry, if you see bright streaks from the sky, you are being warned. A celestial maytag ice box is headed your way. The experts who do not go outside very often attempted to console human life forms by telling us “throughout the entire 54 years of the Space Age, there has been no confirmed report of anybody in the world being injured or severely impacted by re-entering debris.” This Johnson guy must be doing his job if that’s the case. I’m slightly curious to find out about some of the unconfirmed reports though.
It would be awesome to have the job title “Confirmer of Actual, Homicidal Space Debris.” What would probably be awesomer is if you didn’t get smashed by falling space debris while you were showering, reading a book, feeding your dog, walking around, tickling someone, eating a cookie, laughing, doing some stretching, or stapling something. Johnson continued to inform interviewers he didn’t know where the crap was going to land.
If you want to watch this thing prepare to destroy a small country, you can see it’s “haunting” descent at http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/09/20/7866658-falling-satellite-seen-from-earth.
Good luck everybody!