Sep 21, 2011 8:04 PM by Stephanie Collins

Falling satellite draws attention to growing amount of space junk

A six ton satellite, the largest piece of space junk since the sky lab in 1979, is expected to fall out of the sky later this week.

The Upper Atmospheric Research Satellite was in commission from 1991 to 2005, "NASA's models expect that it's going to break up into about 26 chunks that should be large enough to survive re-entry," explains G. Ryan Faith, a research analyst for the Space Foundation.

Chances are slim that you'll even notice it, but the falling chunks of satellite brings to light a bigger issue, the growing amount of space debris, "The estimates are basically in the first 40 years of space, about 54 hundred tons of debris have come back from space," adds Faith.

The Space Foundation says there are some ideas in the developmental stages to reduce the amount of clutter above us. There are nearly 1,000 satellites in orbit, 450 of them are in a low orbit, making them more likely to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere at some point. Right now though, the immediate concern is the UAR Satellite.

The latest predictions have it landing sometime Friday, somewhere between Newfoundland and Argentina. NASA says the chances that some human somewhere will be hit by space junk is one in 3,200; but with 7 billion humans on this planet, the chances of a piece of this satellite hitting you is more like one in 21-trillion.

To track the falling satellite live, click here. 



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