US: The Upper Atmosphere Research satellite (UARS), an out-of-control NASA satellite that is dead in space will plunge back to Earth in the next few weeks, but exactly when and where the satellite will fall are still a mystery, according to NASA. NASA warned people to not touch the object and notify local law enforcement authorities if someone finds a piece of the UARS satellite. The satellite’s remains are still owned by the US government and cannot be sold to space memorabilia hunters
NASA launched the UARS satellite in 1991 aboard the space shuttle Discovery on a mission to study Earth’s upper atmosphere. In particular, the spacecraft examined Earth’s ozone layer to help scientists better understand ozone layer depletion. However, the satellite also tracked atmospheric effects from the Mt. Pinatubo volcano eruption in the Philippines at the time, said Paul Hertz, chief scientist for NASA’s science missions.
The USD 750 million UARS satellite has been dead in orbit since 2005, when it was decommissioned after a 14-year Earth-observation mission. The spacecraft is the largest NASA satellite to make an uncontrolled fall back to Earth in years, space.com reported. It is about 35 feet (10.7 meters) long and 15 feet (4.5 m) wide.
Meanwhile, NASA and the military’s space tracking division are keeping a close watch on the UARS satellite for any changes in its descent over the next few weeks. The space agency is posting weekly updates on the falling spacecraft on a special UARS mission website. The updates are coming from the Joint Space Operations Center at the US Strategic Command at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, which is tracking the satellite.