In September, NASA’s UARS satellite plummeted back to Earth, scattering debris over the Pacific Ocean. In October, Germany’s ROSAT orbiting telescope reentered our atmosphere and crashed somewhere in Southeast Asia. Following this pattern of space crap falling back to Earth comes Russia’s Phobos-Grunt probe, a craft that was intended to land on Mars’ moon Phobos, but instead is looking like it won’t even make it out of our orbit.
The probe was launched on November 8th, but it experienced engine failure and is on a collision course back home. If Russia’s space agency can’t regain contact and right its course, Wired reports estimations have Phobos-Grunt reentering the atmosphere on November 26th. Come this Thanksgiving you can give thanks for the two days you’ll have before having to worry about yet another hunk of metal falling on your head. That’s the good news. Here’s the bad:
The probable fall zone is currently very large — between 51.4 degrees N latitude and 51.4 degrees S latitude, which includes most of the U.S., part of Europe, all of Africa and Australia and virtually all of South America and Asia — and could prove dangerous if the spacecraft were to come down over a populated area.
Track Phobos-Grunt here, it’s rather hypnotic.