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Satellite likely in Pacific Ocean, but may have hit U.S.

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 11:15 a.m. HST, Sep 24, 2011

WASHINGTON >> It's as big as a bus and weighs 6 tons, but officials probably will never be able to pinpoint exactly where a massive NASA satellite plummeted to Earth.

NASA space junk scientists believe that all — or nearly all — of the parts of their 20-year-old dead satellite safely plunged into the Pacific Ocean, likely missing land. But if their estimates are off, by only five minutes or so, fiery pieces could have fallen on parts of northwestern North America.

No injuries or damage have been reported on land, which NASA officials said was a good indication the satellite went into the ocean.

That doesn't necessarily mean it all fell into the sea. Some debris could have fallen over areas such as Portland, Oregon; Seattle; Calgary, Alberta; and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, said Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

"Pieces are falling off of this flaming fire ball, and some of it has enough momentum to go hundreds of miles," he said.

Speculation was rampant on sites such as Twitter. There were no credible reports of debris on the ground, said Nick Johnson, NASA's chief scientist for orbital debris. But if the satellite fell even five minutes later than estimated, some of it could have hit land, he said.

"We don't know where the re-entry point exactly was. We don't exactly know where the debris field is," Johnson said.

NASA's earlier calculations had predicted that the former climate research satellite would fall over a 500-mile swath and could include land. Officials said the 35-foot satellite fell sometime between 5:23 p.m. and 7:09 a.m. Hawaii time Friday.

Much of the speculation focused on unconfirmed reports and even video of debris from the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite over Alberta, Canada.

NASA spokesman Steve Cole said that was possible because the last track for the satellite included Canada, starting north of Seattle and then in a large arc north then south. From there, the track continued through the Atlantic south toward Africa, but it was unlikely the satellite got that far if it started falling over the Pacific.

Some 26 pieces of the satellite representing 1,200 pounds of heavy metal had been expected to rain down somewhere. The biggest surviving chunk should be no more than 300 pounds.

NASA urges anyone who thinks they've found satellite debris to call police. It's government property and illegal to keep it or try to sell it. The debris has no toxic contamination, but there could be sharp edges, NASA officials have said.

UARS is the biggest NASA spacecraft to crash back to Earth, uncontrolled, since the post-Apollo 75-ton Skylab space station and the more than 10-ton Pegasus 2 satellite, both in 1979.

Russia's 135-ton Mir space station slammed through the atmosphere in 2001, but it was a controlled dive into the Pacific.

Before UARS fell, no one had ever been hit by falling space junk and NASA expected that not to change.

NASA put the chances that somebody somewhere on Earth would get hurt at 1-in-3,200. But any one person's odds of being struck were estimated at 1-in-22 trillion, given there are 7 billion people on the planet.

The satellite ran out of fuel and died in 2005. UARS was built and launched before NASA and other nations started new programs that prevent this type of uncontrolled crashes of satellite.

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1local wrote:
It only takes one person to be hit - almost certain they would be DOA.
on September 23,2011 | 06:26AM
Poipounder808 wrote:
Ya think???? LOL
on September 23,2011 | 04:29PM
livinginhawaii wrote:
Um.... your odds of 1-in-22 trillion are wrong. The 7 billion people are spread out. We know for a fact that Africa, Europe, South America and Australia will clearly be missed by the re-entry. Redo your numbers based on the trajectory and known populations.
on September 23,2011 | 07:44AM
manakuke wrote:
Uh they don't know; solar activity threw everything off. Yesterday they said not in the continental US, today well........When is uncertain, Where? Somewhere along the Pacific. Tumbling objects don't compute too well.
on September 23,2011 | 09:01AM
juscasting wrote:
Perfect opportunity to test the new Anti-Ballistic Missiles aboard the U.S.S Lake Erie in a real life situation? See if it can hit the debri that makes it through the atmosphere.
on September 23,2011 | 09:54AM
LemonySnickets wrote:
"I know not where"
on September 23,2011 | 01:28PM
Anonymous wrote:
Typical government project, always delay. Cannot even crash to earth when expected to. :-)
on September 23,2011 | 04:36PM
Anonymous wrote:
Typical government project, always delay. Cannot even crash to earth when expected to. :-)
on September 23,2011 | 04:36PM
Manapua_Man wrote:
So if this causes property damage or bodily injury... who is at fault?
on September 23,2011 | 05:04PM
st1d wrote:
"On Friday night, NASA said it expected the satellite to come crashing down between 5:45 a.m. and 6:45 a.m. Hawaii time Saturday." ...........................................................................................................................................................................................................however the actual nasa quote is: "On Friday night, NASA said it expected the satellite to come crashing down between 11:45 p.m. and 12:45 a.m. EDT Saturday.".................................that makes it between 5:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. tonight, or friday night................................................which means that the satellite has already crashed somewhere.......................................
on September 23,2011 | 09:08PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Landed on Neil's atama (head in Japanese), and disintegrated upon impact, leaving Neil senseless.
on September 24,2011 | 05:23AM
droid wrote:
Yeah, too bad Neil is in Paris with his wife Nancie celebrating their anniversary, making your wishful thinking an impossible dream.
on September 24,2011 | 01:21PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
In Military Technology, it is called a heat seeking missle. Case Closed.
on September 24,2011 | 02:36PM
stanislous wrote:
Location unknown? Then how do they know it hit? LOL
on September 24,2011 | 06:58AM
Anonymous wrote:
just wondering if the satellite had any nuclear fuel...
on September 24,2011 | 08:04AM
Manoa2 wrote:
Pieces of the satellite were seen falling over Maui. Check out the CNN story.
on September 24,2011 | 08:51AM
livinginhawaii wrote:
Thank you for the update and thank you CNN. I can't believe I pay for the shoddy SA reporting. Yes, I understand that they copied an AP article but for CNN to pick up a comment in our own back yard and for the SA to miss this is just plain lazy, sloppy work. Plus they have the nerve to charge for this AP garbage.
on September 24,2011 | 09:42AM
bullturd wrote:
The NASA satellite could count the hairs on our Guv's head and they could not locate where the dang thing was going fall? DANG!!! NASA should close up shop. Oops...I think they did.
on September 24,2011 | 01:09PM
bullturd wrote:
What...nobody had Binoculars?????
on September 24,2011 | 01:12PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Satellite likely off of Diamond Head, likely off of Neil. Details at Eleven.
on September 24,2011 | 02:35PM
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