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After nearly 30 years in orbit, a bus-sized satellite is about to crash into Earth. The European Space Agency’s retired ERS-2 spacecraft is losing altitude and will soon enter our planet’s atmosphere.

The TIE Fighter Lookalike

As it falls, ERS-2 resembles a menacing Star Wars TIE fighter due to its solar panels and instruments. However, don’t worry, as most of its parts will burn up in the atmosphere.

Why Satellites Crash

Defunct satellites naturally fall back to Earth. In the case of ERS-2, it was moved to a lower altitude to avoid collisions with other satellites. It’s now expected to reenter within the next few days.

Space Debris Problem

Space debris, or “space junk,” is a growing concern. Satellites have to maneuver to avoid collisions with debris, and space stations have had to move to avoid it.

Atmospheric Drag

Once satellites fall below certain altitudes, they enter the atmosphere and burn up due to atmospheric drag. This process helps clear out space debris.

Low Risk of Injury

Fortunately, the risk of injury from space debris is extremely low. The annual risk of being injured is less than 1 in 100 billion, which is much lower than the risk of being struck by lightning.