NASA’s Earth Radiation Budget Satellite (ERBS), which has been active in space for nearly 40 years, will soon fall from the sky. On Friday, it announced that the likelihood of ERBS debris harming anyone on Earth was “very low.”
NASA expects most of the 1,500-kilogram satellites to burn up on reentry. Earlier this week, the Pentagon predicted that the ERBS would re-enter Earth’s atmosphere at around 18:40 ET on Sunday (approximately 17 hours ET).
Despite its familiar name, the history of the Radioactive Earth Observing Satellite (ERBS) is far from boring.
According to Phys.org, the Space Shuttle Challenger delivered the satellite into space in 1984, and just over a year passed before Challenger’s tragic death in early 1986.
Astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space, used a robotic arm to release ERBS from the cargo compartment of the Challenger.
During the mission, Ryde’s crew member Katherine Sullivan became the first American woman to perform a spacewalk. It was also the first mission in which two female astronauts went to space together.
ERBS continued to collect ozone and atmospheric data until 2005. Based on these data, I studied how the earth absorbs and radiates solar energy.
The ERBS’ contribution to science is all the more impressive given that NASA initially envisioned only two years of operation.
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