Dead NASA satellite returns to Earth after 38 years

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A NASA satellite has returned to Earth after 38 years of orbiting the planet.

The Earth’s Radiation Budget Satellite, known as ERBS, was launched in 1984 aboard the space shuttle Challenger.

Until 2005, data from ERBS helped researchers explore how Earth absorbs and radiates energy from the sun, and measured the concentration of ozone, water vapor, nitrogen dioxide and aerosols in Earth’s stratosphere.

The US Department of Defense confirmed that ERBS re-entered Earth’s atmosphere Sunday at 11:04 p.m. ET over the Bering Sea, according to a statement from NASA.

It was not immediately clear if parts of the satellite survived re-entry. Most of the satellite was expected to burn up as it moved through the atmosphere. NASA calculated that the risk of harm to anyone on Earth was very low — about 1 in 9,400.

The satellite has far exceeded its two-year life expectancy, operating for a total of 21 years.

NASA said an instrument aboard ERBS, the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment II (SAGE II), collected data that confirmed that the ozone layer is declining on a global scale.

This data helped shape it Montreal Protocol Convention, An international agreement signed by dozens of countries in 1987, it resulted in a significant worldwide reduction in the use of ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) – chemicals that were once commonly used in vaporizers, refrigeration and air conditioners.

If no CFC ban is agreed, the world will be on track for a collapse of the ozone layer and an additional 2.5°C of global warming by the end of the century, found a 2021 study.

Today, SAGE III on the International Space Station is collecting data on the health of the ozone layer.

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