A derelict NASA satellite has returned to Earth after spending almost forty years in orbit.
The space agency’s Earth Radiation Budget Satellite (ERBS)was initially launched aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1984. It helped scientists understand the composition of our planet’s stratosphere and what role it played in absorbing the Sun’s radiation.
It’s finally the last chapter for a spacecraft that has exceeded expectations and has greatly contributed to our comprehension of the planet’s ozone layer and how human activities have damaged it over time.
According to the US Department of Defense, the ERBS came down over the northern Pacific Ocean on Sunday and was expected to mostly burn up during reentry.
However, it was estimated that some of the 5,400-pound satellites would survive the burn. NASA predicted the chance of harming somebody back on Earth to be around one in 9,400.
The ERBS went beyond its two-year service life and went around working in Earth’s orbit for over two decades, helping researchers figure out how human activities have contributed to the amount of incoming and outgoing radiation from the Sun.
The satellite’s successor is at the International Space Station, where aerosol measuring instrument helps collect up-to-date data on the ozone layer to this day.