KUALA LUMPUR: The buzz over the debris of a decommissioned six-tonne United States science satellite raining over Malaysian soil fizzled out yesterday, much to the relief of many.
Since last week, Malaysians had been speculating as to where the the 20-year-old US National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) would end up as the agency estimated that Malaysia would be among the countries within its impact zone.
But yesterday, Nasa confirmed that the satellite had torn through the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean, although it could not provide a precise time and location.
Nasa said the debris fell between 11.23pm on Friday and 1.09am Eastern Daylight Time, yesterday (between 11.23am and 1.09pm in Malaysia).
International news agencies, however, reported that residents of Okotoks, south of Calgary in western Canada, had reported on Twitter that they saw debris falling on their town.
Curious Malaysians posted news of the space research tool's fiery re-entry via Twitter in the last few days, with guesses as to where particles might fall and what would happen if it fell on Malaysia.But yesterday, responses from Malaysians came in slow.
Some of the tweets were as follows:
- @koqinkaremo88: yeay...!!! Malaysia selamat... Satelit x jatuh kt Malaysia.. Insyaallah... (yeay....!!! Malaysia is safe...satellite didn't fall on Malaysia...Insyaallah)
- @MiszGmah: satelit.. mintak jauh ko jatuh kat Malaysia. Ya Allah jauhi kami dari sebarang bencana. amin.amin.amin. slmtkan Malaysia (satellite..please fall far from Malaysia. Dear Allah, spare us from calamity. amin.amin.amin. save Malaysia).
National Space Agency director-general Dr Mustafa Din Subari said the agency was unable to observe the falling satellite debris because of the location.
He said he wasn't really disappointed.
"The last thing we want is for it to fall through our skies."
Mustafa said it was normal for satellites orbiting the Earth to fall back into the atmosphere.
"Only this time, the size is considerably larger so we expected to see evidence of re-entry," he said.
The satellite, which was used to monitor the Earth's atmosphere, is the biggest piece of US space junk to fall to Earth in 30 years and the first multi-instrumented satellite to observe numerous chemical components of the atmosphere for better understanding of photochemistry.
Launched on Sept 12, 1991 aboard space shuttle mission STS-48 and deployed three days later, UARS ceased its productive scientific life in 2005.
Stretching 10.6m long and 4.5m in diameter, UARS is among the largest spacecraft to plummet through the atmosphere.
Nasa now designs all its unmaned spacecraft with a controlled re-entry protocol.
It did not do so when UARS was designed.Universiti Sains Malaysia Astronomy Club academic adviser Assoc Prof Dr Chong Hon Yew said the satellite's re-entry could not be seen with the naked eye or a normal telescope.
"If you want to see this, you will need to use a special radar and this is advanced technology. If it (re-entry) was at night (and in our area) then maybe we could have seen it." - NST