Skip to main content
CNN.com /TRANSCRIPTS
CNN TV
EDITIONS
SERVICES
CNN TV
EDITIONS


CNN LIVE TODAY

NASA Gives Heads Up About a Falling Satellite

Aired January 30, 2002 - 11:42   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: NASA has given us a heads up about a falling satellite. The aging spacecraft could tumble from the sky in an uncontrolled descent sometime tonight or tomorrow.

Our space correspondent Miles O'Brien, a heads up on this one, and where it is expected to come down.

Good morning.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Bill. Good to see you back.

And question about when and where is a big one. As a matter of fact, these people are rocket scientists at NASA. These are things difficult to predict. This is spacecraft coming down from orbit in a completely uncontrolled fashion. Now, before all your Chicken Littles out there put on a crash helmet and run for the basement, let me tell you a little bit about this satellite and give you a sense of.

First of all, here it is. This is a computer animation which gives us live, realtime capability of tracking the Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer. Right now, it's over the Northern Pacific, heading down across Mexico on its way down to the southern tip of Africa and so on. Now this particular satellite is in a 28 degrees inclination orbit. That's a lot of gobblety-gook for saying it goes no higher than 28 degrees north, no lower than 28 degrees south, essentially Orlando, or more specifically, the Kennedy Space Center, and to the south, Brisbane, Australia.

So when and where will it go? Well here, take a look at some animation of this thing. It weighs about 7,000 pounds, I guess About the weight of two sport utility vehicles. But most of it will burn up as it descends from its current altitude of about 120 miles down to about 50 miles is when it starts it burn up.

Now let's take a look at some previous encounters with these sorts of things and give you a sense. This is the Compton Gamma Ray observer, which last summer came down in a controlled fashion over the south pacific. It weighed about 40,000 pounds, much bigger threat, fell harmlessly, because the folks at NASA were able to steer it down into the South Pacific.

Of course the one that a lot of folks remember is the space shuttle Mir, which in March of last year came down. These streaking shots of Mir, which came down in six big streaks, six major components, also a controlled descent. Finally, we remember Sky Lab. Sky Lab, which was a little bit less mass than Mir came down in an uncontrolled fashion. Some of it struck land in the western part of Australia. That is the concern that perhaps it might strike land. Some nine pieces are expected to survive. These are pieces that would be made of titanium, like these pieces of Skylab, not aluminum. That would burn up in the atmosphere.

But the chances are, statistically that nobody is going to get hit by it. As a matter of fact, in the history of the space age, one person has been hit by a fluttering piece of space debris, from a Delta rocket. It happened in Texas in 1997, and Lottie (ph) Williams lived to tell the story.

As a matter of fact, Bill,your odds of getting hit by space debris are one in one trillion. You are better off playing the lotto.

HEMMER: Yes, I would say so. How's that person doing in Texas.

O'BRIEN: She didn't feel a thing. It just like a almost a leaf that fell off a tree, a little fluttering piece of metal, and she went and she showed it, she was from Texas. She got it to the Johnson Space Center. They looked at it and said, you know, that's actually part of a Delta rocket, and you found a small lit footnote in history for yourself, Lottie Williams.

HEMMER: Miles, thanks. Good to see you again.

O'BRIEN: Good to see you.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


 
 
 
 


 Search   

Back to the top