The debris of Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) spacecraft may fall in the Philippines early next week, according to a report by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The spacecraft, which was designed to study rainfall for climate and weather research, is set to burn up before it will fall.
On its update this Saturday, June 13, 2015, NASA said that RMM is predicted to make it re-entry into atmosphere on Tuesday, June 16 at 4:52 a.m. EDT (4:52 p.m., Manila time). But because of the natural variations in the atmosphere, the exact time and location of where the aircraft will fall are both hard to tell.
According to NASA, TRMM is a 12-year joint project of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the NASA. It is being closely monitored by the U.S. Space Surveillance Network, operated by the Department of Defense U.S. Strategic Command’s Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC).
TRMM was launched on November 27, 1997 at Tanegashima Space Center, Japan. It was originally designed to carry out a three-year mission only, but has operated successfully for more than eight years. All the necessary research was completed in 2001, and the collection of data formally ended on April 8, 2015.
The orbit of this TRMM spacecraft is very unlikely to fall in North America Europe, Russia, and Japan. Nevertheless, NASA emphasized that it could possibly fall between 35 degrees North latitude and 35 degrees South latitude. As shown in the map below, the entire Philippines is included in the possible drop zone.
TRMM reentry map; Credit: NASA
To avoid panic, NASA is reminding everyone that there has been no confirmed report of injury on locations where space objects dropped. The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) was the last NASA spacecraft to re-enter the Earth back in September 2011. This satellite is much bigger than the TRIMM.
NASA estimates that there will be 12 components of the TRMM that will survive and re-enter Earth. Although the exact size cannot be determined, the possibly of one of them to hurt anyone is around 1 in 4,200. Therefore, it means that the public is totally safe from harm and has really nothing to worry about.
These pieces of the TRIMM debris are made of titanium and cannot affect the human health. However, they could have sharp edges and can pose danger when touched by inexperienced individuals. It is therefore being highly recommended to immediately report to authorities once there are suspected sightings.