Space Station To Crash Into Ocean: 5 Other Notable Falls From Orbit

Categories: NASA

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Skylab: Roomy but fallible
News came out yesterday that Russia and her space-station partners plan to crash the thing into the ocean when its life span ends in 2020.

It's too expensive to dismantle, and would be too huge and dangerous a piece of space junk to leave up there in orbit.

Man-made orbiters have crashed to earth before, of course, with mixed results. Most of the time they all but toally burn up in re-entry, but not always. Five famous examples:

5. Skylab
The first American space station was Skylab, which was launched in 1973. It was abandoned after four missions in 1974. NASA thought about keeping it up there but decided not to.

They thought it would orbit for another five or six years, but sunspot activity quickened the ship's gradually descending orbit, and an earth panic that was halfway not serious and halfway serious ensued.

Newspapers offered rewards for the first person to find pieces of Skylab, and scientists tried to assure people that most of the earth is water, and much of the land is empty, so chances of being hit are pretty infinitesimal. NASA fired rockets they thought would direct it into the ocean, but the ship crashed outside of Perth, Austrailia in July 1979. Pieces of it were displayed a few days later at the Miss Universe pageant in Perth.

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What Glory would have looked like if it had worked
4. The $424 million Glory hole in the ocean
The Glory weather satellite, designed to research climate change, took off from Vandenberg Air base in California on March 4 of this year.

It failed to reach altitude. Here's a comment no launch director wants to make:

"All indications are that the satellite and rocket is in the southern Pacific Ocean somewhere," NASA Launch Director Omar Baez said in a morning press conference.

At least there were no nearby Miss Universe pageants.


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One of the pieces that the USSR said did not exist
3. Kosmos 954
In early 1978, the USSR had some bad news for its North American friends: A satellite with an onboard nuclear reactor had malfunctioned and possibly, maybe had a chance to crash in Canada or the U.S.

When the spy satellite did come down the Soviets announced it had entirely burned up on re-entry, no need to look for any pieces of it or anything, forget we even told you about it.

Canada and the U.S. launched a search operation, however, and found debris stretching across a nearly 400-mile arc of Canada from Great Slave Lake to Baker Lake. Most of the pieces found were radioactive.



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