The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has launched a countless number of crafts of varying sizes and purposes to space since its inception over six decades ago. These equipment have been really helpful in documenting and capturing information regarding our cosmos which aided us in our understanding of the planet we live in and our cosmic neighbors located millions of light-years away.
Many have been retired after serving their purpose well. But what happens to these crafts after devoting their precious time and resources in performing their duty in the name of scientific breakthrough? An article on SpacePlace by the space agency posits an answer. According to the aforementioned article, there are two short answers. For satellites or crafts that are closer to us, specialists will use the last supply of its fuel to hamper its movement in hopes that it will be knocked out of its orbit and burn up in the atmosphere as soon as it reenters our atmosphere. On the other hand, crafts that are located farther from our planet will be directed to move farther away from our planet.
These are done to ensure that these spacecraft are given the rightful final send-off they deserve as well as shielding humans from harm’s way while doing so. Many of them have already undergone their own decommissioning processes while others are yet to go and take on this final step of their lifetime.
This is the situation of a long forgotten and retired spacecraft of the space agency will undergo in this coming weekend. It was first independently detected by two different NASA facilities, the University of Arizona’s Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) and the University of Hawaii’s Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS), as a cosmic body headed to Earth with an impact trajectory. But with a series of cross-checking with other partner agencies and analyzing the data, it was found out that it was not an asteroid headed on our planet to cause destruction but rather a very old NASA scientific spacecraft called the Orbiting Geophysics Observatory 1 (OGO-1).
It was the first mission to be launched of its program series, the Orbiting Geophysical Observatory, which consisted of six satellites launched by the United States during the mid-60s to the early 70s. Intended to study our planet’s magnetosphere, these series of spacecraft swept through the Earth’s radiation belts to gather data and conduct a series of observations on the said atmospheric layer.
Though it was the first of its successors, it will be the last among them to finally be laid to rest as the others have already either decayed from orbit or safely reentered our planet and have crashed into different parts of our oceans a long time ago.
According to a press release from the space agency, with consideration of the latest data available and the calculations and approximations made, OGO-1 will be reentering the Earth’s atmosphere this Saturday, 29th of August, late in the afternoon. Though it is headed to our direction, specialists at NASA reiterated that the retired craft poses no grave direct threat to us as there will be a high chance that it will disintegrate as it enters our atmosphere and leftover bits of it will land to an area known as the ‘Spacecraft Cemetery’ – a point in the South Pacific Ocean where most spacecraft debris lay to rest. This is the farthest place from any populate landmass on Earth.