But where will it land?
Over the last few years, hundreds of satellites have been launched into Earth’s orbit at a record pace. When they’ve run their course, these satellites are generally left to float around in space – which is creating its own problems – but sometimes our litterbug tendencies come back to bite us in more direct ways. Yes, we’re talking about the old NASA satellite that is plummeting back to Earth.
Known as Rhessi, the defunct science satellite is set to fall through Earth’s atmosphere tonight (April 19), according to NASA and the US Defense Department, though there is a significant margin for error. Weighing 300 kilograms, some of it is expected to burn up during reentry, but “some components are expected to survive”. Where will they land? Don’t know lol.
On Tuesday, NASA said that the reentry location of the sizeable hunk of space junk isn’t being disclosed, leading to concern about parts of it causing infrastructure damage or – in a particularly unlucky scenario – landing on someone’s head, as happened to Oklahoman Lottie Williams, the only known person who has been hit by human-made space junk, in 1997. According to the space agency, the risk of it actually harming anyone on Earth is “low”. It places the odds at about one in 2,467 (could be lower, tbh!).
Rhessi (AKA the Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager) was originally launched in 2002, to study the sun using X-ray and gamma ray imaging, but was shut down in 2018 due to communication problems. During its active time in space, it recorded more than 100,000 solar events, observing solar flares as well as coronal mass ejections from our home star.
Depending where it lands, of course, Rhessi’s legacy could be a very different story. Could it crash through the roof at the World Snooker Championships, creating yet more “terrible, terrible scenes”? Could it hit the Coachella Valley, giving Frank Ocean an excuse not to perform again this Sunday? Could it decimate the Dazed offices? Your guess is as good as ours!