Abandoned NASA satellite crashes into Earth

After nearly 40 years circling the Earth, NASA’s retired ERBS (Earth Radiation Budget Satellite) science satellite plunged harmlessly through the atmosphere off the coast of Alaska, NASA reported.

The Department of Defense confirmed that the satellite – put into orbit in 1984 by astronaut Sally Ride – re-entered late Sunday night over the Bering Sea, a few hundred kilometers from Alaska. NASA said it has received no reports of injuries or damage from the falling debris.

Odds of 1 in 9,400

At the end of last week, NASA said it expected most of the 5,400-pound satellite to burn up in the atmosphere, but that some pieces might survive. According to the space agency, the odds of falling debris injuring someone are 1 in 9,400.

The space shuttle Challenger put the satellite into orbit and the first American woman in space released it. The satellite measured ozone in the atmosphere and studied how the Earth absorbed and radiated energy from the Sun, before being retired in 2005, well beyond its expected lifetime.

The satellite’s successor lives on aboard the International Space Station, where the aerosol measuring instrument helps to collect up-to-date data on the ozone layer up to the present day.

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