Doomed satellite re-enters atmosphere
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
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.