Science

What you should know if UARS has crashed in your back yard

UARS last know location on Google Earth
UARS last know location on visualised Google Earth
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“NASA’s decommissioned Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite fell back to Earth between 11:23 p.m. EDT Friday, Sept. 23 and 1:09 a.m. EDT Sept. 24. The Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California said the satellite penetrated the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean. The precise re-entry time and location are not yet known with certainty.”

With this NASA officially announced that UARS crashed to Earth. But as the space agency says, they are not entirely sure where.

After a day spent tracking the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, NASA’s post-reentry assessment of the satellite’s status begin at 5:30 am GMT when the agency tweeted that it believed the satellite had entered the atmosphere (they also asked if everyone was OK).

About an hour later the agency confirmed that that the satellite entered the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean and the pieces that survived probably crashed on Canadian soil.

The latest data available to us outside of NASA came from a visualisation of  United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) satellite data on Google Earth which stopped tracking UARS over the Indian Ocean.

UARS last know location on Google Earth
UARS last know location on visualised Google Earth

If you are in Canada and find a chunk of satellite in your back yard you need to know two important things, the first is that you can’t keep it;

The second is you, according to a United Nations agreement (The Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects), can get compensation.

According to the convention, “A launching State shall be absolutely liable to pay compensation for damage caused by its space object on the surface of the earth or to aircraft flight.”

Interestingly, nowhere in the document does it mention the word “death.”

This isn’t the first time this year that the destruction of a satellite has been live tweeted.  In June the European Space Agency live tweeted the destruction of their ATV-2 Space Freighter, Johannes Kepler, after it left the International Space Station.  Although, unlike UARS the ESA wanted to destroy the satellite and was able to control Kepler’s reentry and guide it to a splash-down in the Pacific Ocean.

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Piers Dillon Scott
Piers Dillon-Scott is co-editor of The Sociable and writes about stuff he finds. He likes technology, media, and using the Oxford comma (because it just makes sense).