THE US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has predicted that spacecraft Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere next week.
A joint project of NASA and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the TRMM was launched into space to gather rainfall data used for weather models–like hurricane paths–and climate study around the world.
“The value of the new type of precipitation data produced by TRMM is widely recognized by both the scientific community and the operational weather forecast community,” NASA said.
TRMM space mission ended last April.
According to NASA, most of the TRMM spacecraft will burn up in the atmosphere during its uncontrolled descent.
NASA however estimated that 12 components of the spacecraft which are “made of titanium and are not toxic” could survive re-entry.
“The chance that one of these pieces would strike someone is approximately 1 in 4,200, which is a relatively low chance,” NASA said.
“Debris could have sharp edges and should not be touched or handled, in the unlikely event someone were to find TRMM fragments,” NASA warned the public.
“Any sightings of suspected TRMM debris should be reported to local authorities,” it added.
NASA said that since the start of space age in 1950s, there has been no confirmed report of an injury resulting from re-entering space objects.
“The last NASA spacecraft to re-enter was the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) in September 2011… NASA received no reports of surviving debris,” it said.
TRMM satellite is smaller than UARS.
US Joint Space Operations Center has monitored TRMM’s re-entry.
Citing natural variations in the near-Earth environment, NASA said it could not give an exact time and location of where spacecraft will re-enter.