A satellite NASA launched 56 years ago to study Earth’s magnetosphere is set to make a fiery homecoming on Saturday when the Orbiting Geophysics Observatory 1 (OGO-1) re-enters our atmosphere.

OGO-1 operated for just a few years after its launch in 1964 until the mission was officially terminated in 1971. It then spent nearly half a century repeatedly circling our planet on its highly elliptical orbit.

“While OGO-1 was the first spacecraft to be launched in the OGO series, it will be the last to return home as all other five spacecraft have already decayed from orbit and safely reentered Earth’s atmosphere, landing in various parts of the planet’s oceans,” reads a statement from NASA.

Now it seems Earth’s gravity is finally catching up with OGO-1. The vintage science experiment turned to space junk is expected to begin its re-entry within a minute or two of 20:43 UTC (that’s 4:43 p.m. EDT) on the 29th.

Bill Gray, who created a software package astronomers use to track nearby asteroids and comets, told me his most recent data shows the old satellite could re-enter almost directly above Tahiti in the Pacific. He advises skywatchers in French Polynesia to have their cameras ready.

The odds are that little of OGO-1 will make it to the surface. It weighs in at only 500 kg (1,102 pounds) or about 40 times less than the 20-ton Chinese rocket that made a stir when it made its own uncontrolled re-entry in March.

“The spacecraft will break up in the atmosphere and poses no threat to our planet—or anyone on it—and this is a normal final operational occurrence for retired spacecraft,” NASA says.

While it’s normal for a satellite to meet its end in this way, how skywatchers re-connected with OGO-1 was unusual: When it was first spotted by astronomers, it was mistaken for a near-earth asteroid.

On August 25, the University of Arizona’s Catalina Sky Survey, which is funded through NASA’s planetary defense program, observed what appeared to be a small object on a collision course with Earth. A number of follow-up observations later, the object was identified as OGO-1.

I’ve covered science, technology, the environment and politics for outlets including CNET, PC World, BYTE, Wired, AOL and NPR. I’ve written e-books on Android and Alaska.

I’ve covered science, technology, the environment and politics for outlets including CNET, PC World, BYTE, Wired, AOL and NPR. I’ve written e-books on Android and Alaska.

I began covering Silicon Valley for the now defunct Business 2.0 Magazine in 2000, but when the dot-com bubble burst, I found myself manning a public radio station in the Alaskan Bush for three years.

Upon returning to the lower 48, I covered politics, energy and the environment as a freelancer for National Public Radio programs and spent time as an online editor for AOL and Comcast.

For the past decade, I’ve returned to focusing on the world of technology.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ericmack/2020/08/28/nasa-satellite-launched-in-1964-is-about-to-fall-back-to-earth/

World news – GB – NASA Satellite Launched In 1964 Is About To Fall Back To Earth

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