One-ton satellite to crash into Earth - but scientists do not knowWHERE!
ESA /AOES Medialab
A one-ton satellite is expected to crash down to earth this weekend - but scientists don't know where. The European Space Agency (ESA) says the craft, which has been in low-Earth orbit since 2009, has run out of fuel, ending its mission.
It is expected to disintegrate on re-entry, with most of the fragments burning up in the atmosphere.But around 20% of the satellite's mass - about 200kg - is expected to crash to earth in various fragments and it's impossible to predict where they will land.
However ESA scientists say there is no need to worry - humans are much more likely to win the lottery than get hit by the debris.
Dr Heiner Klinkrad, head of the ESA's Space Debris Office said: "The risk to the population on ground will be minute. Statistically speaking, it is 250,000 times more probable to win the jackpot in the German Lotto than to get hit by a GOCE fragment.
"In 56 years of space flight, no man-made space objects that have re-entered into Earth’s atmosphere have ever caused injury to humans."
The satellite, known as the Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE), has been mapping the Earth's gravitational field, which is important for understanding changing sea levels.
The craft's orbit is decaying rapidly. It is expected to reach an altitude of 80km above the earth's surface on Sunday night, at which point it will begin to disintegrate.