A big satellite is coming down tonight, and it's calles UARS.
Do you remember when SkyLab fell? I do. And I watched it. I was a sci-fi space junkie. Now I'm in my office, father of 10, 4 congregations, lots of personal, family, and parish duties. But space still fascinates me.
UARS was launched in in September 1991 from STS-48 Space Shuttle Discovery. UARS cost about $750 million to build. (I couldn't find figures on the cost to launch and deploy) The original mission for UARS was 3 years. A paltry $250 million a year. There are plenty of American Taxpayers to fund that!!!!
The purpose of UARS was:
to study human effects on the planet's atmosphere and its shielding ozone layer. The UARS mission objectives were to provide an increased understanding of the energy input into the upper atmosphere, global photochemistry of the upper atmosphere, dynamics of the upper atmosphere, the coupling among these processes, and the coupling between the upper and lower atmosphere. This provided data for a coordinated study of the structure, chemistry, energy balance, and physical action of the Earth's middle atmosphere - that slice of air between 10 and 60 miles above the Earth. The UARS was the first major flight element of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth, a multi-year global research program that would use ground-based, airborne, and space-based instruments to study the Earth as a complete environmental system. UARS had ten sensing and measuring devices: Cryogenic Limb Array Etalon Spectrometer (CLAES); Improved Stratospheric and Mesospheric Sounder (ISAMS); Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS); Halogen Occultation Experiment (HALOE); High Resolution Doppler Imager (HRDI); Wind Imaging Interferometer (WlNDII); Solar Ultraviolet Spectral Irradiance Monitor (SUSIM); Solar/Stellar Irradiance Comparison Experiment (SOLSTICE); Particle Environment Monitor (PEM) and Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitor (ACRIM II). UARS's initial 18-month mission was extended several times – it was finally retired after 14 years of service.It worked until Jan 1992, fixed in June, broke again 14 months later, a partial fix was made months later, then in 1995 the earth sensor broke which led to a solar array failure, three fo its batteries failed in 1997, then in 1999 its backup tape recorder started to fail. A few of the sensors still operated, but UARS was decomissioned in Dec 2005 (14 years after its launch) and brought down to a destructive orbit that month. The International Space Station had to dodge the UARS one time so that the astronauts abord wouldn't be space dust.
The Highights of the UARS mission can be seen at this website.
But those Highlights aren't really objective science if you are willing to search through the scientific literature.
What matters tonight is that there will be a pretty fireworks display. Sammy Davis, Jr. put it to music, "What goes up, must come down!" I hope some of you can record it with your cameras.
It was pretty expensive fireworks. Someone should enjoy it.