Falling satellite could hit Sweden: experts

A 20-year-old satellite that has fallen out of orbit is expected to plunge back to Earth sometime next week and its projected landfall could strike Sweden, according to NASA experts.

An out of use 6.5-tonne Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, known in the science circles as UARS, is expected to fall from orbit late next week and it could strike Sweden.

While most of the satellite is expected to burn up after it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere, NASA projects that about 545 kilogrammes of pieces will survive and plunge somewhere on the globe spanning a 500-mile radius.

Experts cannot forecast the exact locations of landfall, but based on the satellite’s current orbit and inclination, the strike zone is calculated to be somewhere between 57 degrees north and 57 degrees south of the equator, according to NASA.

Sweden extends between the 55th and 69th northern latitudes, which theoretically puts everything south of Gothenburg at risk, but NASA experts say the risk is considered minimal and calculate that it is a 1-in-3,200 chance that piece would actually hit a person.

The likely strike zone is a worldwide swath that covers most of the planet’s six inhabited continents and three oceans.

Since the dawn of the 1950s Space Age, there have been no confirmed reports of injury from re-entering space objects.

UARS, which ran out of gas in 2005, was originally deployed in 1991 from the Discovery space shuttle.

Its nearly 5 billion kronor ($750 million) mission was to study Earth’s atmosphere and its interactions with the sun by measuring the concentrations and distributions of gases vital to ozone depletion, climate change and other atmospheric phenomena.

According to NASA, readings from the satellite provided conclusive evidence that human-produced chlorofluorcarbons released into the atmosphere is the root cause of the polar ozone hole.

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NASA censors Swedish pupil’s naked astronaut query

On Sunday night, students from Sätraskolan, a school in southern Stockholm, had the chance to interview Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang, who is on a space mission to the International Space Station (ISS). But NASA thought some of the questions were a bit too risqué.

When fourteen-year-old Zhiwar Naeimiakbar wondered if you can survive in space “without clothes” if you have access to air, it appeared the American space agency might not approve his question.

“At first I was hysterical. Oh my God, now I won’t be a part of this. But then I understood why,” he told TT news agency.

NASA explained they would not run the question if it included the words “without clothes” (“utan kläder”) and instead changed it to “without a spacesuit.”

Naeimiakbar was thrilled to have his question answered.

“It feels unbelievable. Sure, you talk on the telephone with your best friends, but this here was a totally different feeling, even if it was just for a few minutes, a few seconds, it felt wonderful,” he said.

Seven-year-old Cawo Ali asked Fuglesang how it felt to come back to earth after a period of weightlessness.

“It feels heavy, I can tell you. Your legs are heavy on the first day and your balance is slightly off,” wrote the Swedish astronaut, who returns to planet earth on Friday night, Swedish time.

At 5:40 am on Monday, Fuglesang and his colleague Danny Olivas wrapped up the mission’s third and final space walk. Fuglesang became the first astronaut from a country other than the US or Russia to complete more than three space walks.

Käppala school on Lidingö outside of the Swedish capital will also meet Fuglesang. One of the school’s eighth grade classes participated in a competition and were drawn as a winner during a broadcast on Swedish Television (SVT).

Of the school projects submitted to the contest, Fuglesang selected five. Frank de Winne, his Belgian colleague on the Discovery, drew the winning class.

Fuglesang also talked about the research that is being conducted during the Discovery’s mission.

“It is primarily weightlessness that we are taking advantage of here. We can study phenomena that are impossible (to study) on Earth. It covers subjects such as material physics, biology and medicine,” he said.