NASA: 'We may never know' location of satellite debris
On its final orbit of the earth, a six-ton defunct satellite flew over Canada, headed south over Africa, blew south of Australia and took a turn to the northeast over the Pacific Ocean. As it neared Canada, it plummeted from the sky.
But despite its school-bus size, NASA officials have not yet figured out where the fiery debris landed.
“We may never know,” said Nicholas Johnson, NASA's chief orbital debris scientist on a conference call.
There have been no reports of eyewitnesses, injuries or discovered debris, suggesting the debris fell over the ocean, Johnson said.
NASA officials believe the satellite crashed into the Pacific Ocean, missing land. But officials have yet to determine the precisely where the satellite penetrated the earth’s atmosphere, leaving them unable to determine where the debris landed.
“Because we don’t know where the reentry actually was, we don’t know where the debris field might be,” Johnson said.
Officials said the satellite crashed into the ocean between 11:23 p.m. EDT Friday and 1:09 a.m. EDT Saturday. If their predictions are off, even by a few minutes, the fiery debris could have landed somewhere in North America.
The agency is awaiting more information from Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, which tracks falling debris, and from possible eyewitnesses on airliners and ships to make a closer approximation, Johnson said.
-- Stephen Ceasar
Photo: The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) is deployed by the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-48) in September 1991. Credit: Reuters / NASA