NASA's Fallen Satellite Highlights Human Fears

By:  James Heiser
09/27/2011
       
NASA's Fallen Satellite Highlights Human Fears

After days of media hype, NASA’s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) fell into the Pacific Ocean without — it would seem — having harmed so much as the proverbial fly. The satellite had orbited Earth for 20 years without receiving much public attention. Launched by the space shuttle Discovery in 1991, UARS had quietly gone about its work until its inevitable, inexorable descent hurtled the six-ton satellite into the public spotlight at the very hour of its death.

UARS’ function was to study the ozone layer of Earth’s atmosphere. The satellite’s mission was only supposed to last for three years, but — with a longevity strikingly similar to that of NASA’s Mars landers — UARS continued to function over a decade after the conclusion of its scheduled mission. When the Bush administration reduced funding for the Earth Science Enterprise, the UARS was officially decommissioned, and the satellite was dropped from its higher orbit in December 2005. It was this final burn that led to the UARS’ fall from space nearly six years later.

According to press reports, the satellite harmlessly dropped into the Pacific Ocean. FoxNews noted:

After days of media hype, NASA’s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) fell into the Pacific Ocean without — it would seem — having harmed so much as the proverbial fly. The satellite had orbited Earth for 20 years without receiving much public attention. Launched by the space shuttle Discovery in 1991, UARS had quietly gone about its work until its inevitable, inexorable descent hurtled the six-ton satellite into the public spotlight at the very hour of its death.

UARS’ function was to study the ozone layer of Earth’s atmosphere. The satellite’s mission was only supposed to last for three years, but — with a longevity strikingly similar to that of NASA’s Mars landers — UARS continued to function over a decade after the conclusion of its scheduled mission. When the Bush administration reduced funding for the Earth Science Enterprise, the UARS was officially decommissioned, and the satellite was dropped from its higher orbit in December 2005. It was this final burn that led to the UARS’ fall from space nearly six years later.

According to press reports, the satellite harmlessly dropped into the Pacific Ocean. FoxNews noted:

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