(MEDIA GENERAL) – The unmanned Russian spacecraft, Progress M-27M/59P, was meant to resupply the International Space Station. Russian mission control lost contact with the craft shortly after launch April 28. Now, officials around the world are watching to see where the craft will reenter earth when it comes crashing down.
When will it crash?
The European Space Agency’s Space Debris Office is following events closely. The spacecraft is expected to crash sometime between now and May 11. May 9 is the most likely date.
“It is now impossible to say over what point of Earth’s surface reentry will occur,” said Dr. Holger Krag, Head of ESA’s Space Debris Office in Germany. He said the current orbital speeds translate into thousands of kilometers. Officials are using US and German radar systems to make reentry estimates and communicate with everyone involved around the world.
By Friday, May 8, officials expect to be able to exclude certain locations where the craft may reenter. They also expect to refine the reentry time.
Will pieces crash into earth?
The spacecraft weighs about 7 tons, or more than 15,000 pounds. It is expected that most of it will burn up during reentry. However, Dr. Krag said it’s possible that some part of the structure, such as the heavy docking mechanism or tanks and thrusters, could survive reentry and reach the surface.
“In six decades of space flight, no person has ever been hit by any piece of reentering satellite or debris and there is nothing related to this situation to indicate otherwise,” said Dr. Krag. “We all accept much higher risks in our daily lives by driving a car or flying in airplanes.”
It is most likely that if anything reached the surface, it would fall in the desert, over water or in an unpopulated area. Dr. Krag said the risk to anyone on the ground is extremely small.
You can track it
When the spacecraft does reenter Earth, those near it may be able to see a streak of fire across the sky.
You can track the spacecraft yourself here: http://www.n2yo.com/?s=40619
As for the International Space Station, it is well stocked and will easily continue with its current supplies until the next resupply mission, according to NASA.