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Doomed satellite re-enters atmosphere

takeoff September 28, 1997
Web posted at: 2:54 p.m. EDT (1854 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A multimillion-dollar NASA satellite built to monitor pollution came to an early demise Sunday as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere and burst into a fiery ball.

The 890-pound satellite was expected to burn up completely somewhere above Antarctica before reaching Earth.

"The probability that any part of it will survive is very low, and it represents no significant threat to people on the ground," said Samuel Venneri, chief technologist at NASA headquarters in Washington.

NASA officials said the Lewis satellite, named after the 19th century American explorer Meriwether Lewis, re-entered the atmosphere around 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT) Sunday.

The satellite spun out of control and fell silent shortly after launch in August. Since then, engineers worked to re-establish contact, to no avail.

The satellite was designed to last five years in orbit.

It was intended to push the state of the art in remote-sensing for science and commercial uses such as monitoring pollution, analyzing endangered species habitats, estimating forest and agricultural productivity, mapping soil resources, and assessing energy pipeline environmental impacts.

NASA budgeted $64.8 million for the mission, including the launch vehicle and one year of orbital operations. NASA also spent an additional $6.2 million for storage and maintenance during a one-year delay in launching.


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