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Old 02-19-2008, 06:21 PM   #1
buckeyefan78
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Default Is this the end of the world?

Dead satellite to hit Earth early March

By EILEEN SULLIVAN and PAMELA HESS , Associated Press

WASHINGTON - A dead U.S. spy satellite in a deteriorating orbit is expected to hit the Earth the first week of March, officials said Thursday.

It is not known where on Earth the satellite will hit. But officials familiar with the situation say about half of the 5,000-pound spacecraft is expected to survive its blazing descent through the atmosphere and will scatter debris — some of it potentially hazardous — over several hundred miles. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The satellite is outfitted with thrusters, small engines used to position it in space, that contain the toxic rocket fuel hydrazine. Hydrazine can cause harm to anyone who contacts it.

U.S. officials do not want this equipment to fall into the wrong hands.

"The Chinese and the Russians spend an enormous amount of time trying to steal American technology," said John Pike, a defense and intelligence expert. "To have our most sophisticated radar intelligence satellite — have big pieces of it fall into their hands — would not be our preferred outcome."

Where it lands will be difficult to predict until the satellite descends to about 59 miles above the Earth and enters the atmosphere. It will then begin to burn up, with flares visible from the ground, said Ted Molczan, a Canadian satellite tracker. From that point on, he said, it will take about 30 minutes to fall.


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