Science and Nature

NASA’s 56-year-old satellite meets its end, makes a fiery return in Pacific Ocean

NASA’s 56-year-old satellite meets its end, makes a fiery return in Pacific Ocean thumbnail

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi |

September 2, 2020 2:47:54 pm

NASA’s OGO-1 satellite after entering Earth’s atmosphere (Source: PYF Spotters/Screengrab)

NASA’s satellite from the 1960s that was retired decades ago met its fiery end as Earth’s gravity caught up with it. The OGO-1 satellite broke up upon entering our planet’s atmosphere. NASA confirmed that the satellite met its end 160 km southeast of Tahiti (Pacific Ocean) on August 29. The spacecraft entered Earth’s atmosphere 25 minutes earlier than predicted. The final moments of the 20th-century satellite were caught on camera.

The satellite re-entered over the southern Pacific Ocean and burned up in the atmosphere, posing no threat to humans, NASA spokesperson Josh Handal told

“The spacecraft hit the atmosphere about 25 minutes earlier than NASA had forecast resulting in a reentry location east of the agency’s predictions. OGO-1 re-entered about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of Tahiti, Handal further added. NASA received reports of the inevitable event from the people on the island.

The satellite was launched in 1964 to study Earth’s magnetosphere and how it reacts while orbiting around the Sun. The satellite helped scientists collected data till 1969 before it was decommissioned two years later. It was a part of NASA’s Orbiting Geophysical Observatories project.

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With OGO-1 officially done and dusted, all the five satellites that were launched in the 1960s have entered the earth’s atmosphere with their debris landing in various patches of the South Pacific ocean. The previous satellite met the same fate in 2011.

The forecast of the spacecraft’s return to the Earth was predicted by the University of Arizona’s Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) and the University of Hawaii’s Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS). Both these systems spotted an object that was on an impact trajectory. Later on, researchers at the CSS, the Center for Near-Earth Object (NEO) Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and the European Space Agency’s NEO Coordination Center learned upon analysis came to a conclusion that the object was not an asteroid but a defunct satellite.

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