Heads Up! Satellite Set to Crash to Earth
ESA /AOES Medialab
The Gravity Ocean Circulation Explorer satellite was placed in orbit in 2009 on a mission to monitor variations in gravity and sea levels.
Aug. 3, 2011
-- It's a long, tough road to becoming an astronaut. So, chances are, you'll never experience the wonders of space firsthand. And while you've probably seen the photos, they, well, can fall flat. But with a few pieces of paper, some tape and red and blue cellophane, you can be on your way to seeing space the way the astronauts do. Find instructions here: How to Make Your Own 3D Glasses. The 3D affect is created thanks to anaglyph images -- the compilation of the same photo with contrasting colors. When viewed using a pair of corresponding filters, the picture appears three-dimensional. Now that you've got your 3D glasses, take a look back at some of the most historic and iconic moments in space history like you've never seen them before. In this historic photo, astronaut Bruce McCandless II is seen floating in space, untethered (a first at the time), on Feb. 27, 1984.
What better way to spend Christmas than leaving Earth's orbit and entering the orbit of the moon? This view is what Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders saw on Christmas Eve, 1968. "Earthrise at Christmas" as the photo is known, was the first time Earth was seen as it appears from deep space, across the lunar surface.
This may be the closest you'll ever come to walking on the moon. In this iconic photo, astronaut Buzz Aldrin poses for a photo on the lunar surface. The reflection of the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, can be seen in Aldrin's visor. The astronauts of Apollo 11 would only spend 21 hours on the moon, conducting experiments, collecting moon rocks and, of course, taking photos.
It was a tough job, but someone had to do it -- be the first U.S. astronaut ever to "walk" in space. The honor went to Ed White on June 3, 1965, during the Gemini 4 mission. The photographer was astronaut James McDivitt. After propelling himself to and fro three times, the fuel ran out of his propeller gun. He was able to twist and maneuver himself back to the spacecraft using the tether.
In this photo, Apollo 15 Lunar Module Pilot James Irwin salutes the U.S. flag on the moon. The mission was the first to bring a wheeled vehicle to the moon in July, 1971. And what better way to explore the lunar surface than by moon buggy -- or LRV (lunar rover vehicle)?
Astronaut Stephen K. Robinson is shown here anchored to a foot restraint on the International Space Station's Canadarm2 in 2005. The mission was historic for its in-orbit maneuvers, tests of new equipment and procedures, and a first-of-its-kind spacewalking repair.
Fragments from a science satellite are likely to crash to Earth late Sunday or early Monday after the one-ton probe breaks up at the end of its mission, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Friday.
In a statement, the agency said when and where the pieces would land was still unclear. Experts have previously said the statistical risk to humans is remote.
Several dozen fragments totaling around 200 kilos (440 pounds), or about the weight of car engine, will survive contact with the atmosphere, according to computer models.
The Gravity Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite was placed in orbit in 2009 on a mission to monitor variations in gravity and sea levels. The sleek, finned craft ran out of fuel on October 21, leaving it without power to maintain its altitude in low orbit, where there are still lingering molecules of air.
"Reentry of GOCE into Earth's atmosphere is predicted to occur during the night between Sunday and Monday," ESA said on Friday. "Break-up of the spacecraft will occur at an altitude of approximately 80 km (50 miles). At the moment, the exact time and location of where the fragments will land cannot be foreseen."
GOCE was launched in March 2009 at an altitude of 260 kilometers (160 miles) -- later lowered to 224 km -- the lowest ever for a research satellite. The 350-million-euro ($465-million) mission has lasted twice as long as its initially scheduled 20 months.
According to ESA spacecraft operations manager Christoph Steiger, most of the 5.3-meter-long (17.2-foot) spacecraft will burn up. The chances of a human being hit were about 65,000 times lower than getting struck by lightning, he said in October.
In more than half a century of spaceflight, there have been no casualties from man-made space debris, despite about 20 to 40 tons impacting somewhere on Earth each year, Steiger said.
GOCE was designed and built before 2008, when international recommendations were adopted that a scientific satellite must be able to execute a controlled reentry, or burn up completely after its mission.