China To Launch Space Station Test Module: Rehearsal for Tiangong-1 launch comprehensive and successful

Special Report: Tiangong I – China’s first space rendezvous and docking task

Rehearsal for Tiangong-1 launch comprehensive and successful

On the afternoon of September 25, all participants of the “Tiangong-1” mission completed a joint rehearsal at the launching site. The results showed that the launch conditions were ripe with smooth commanding within all systems and units, proper technical conditions and devices in sound operation.

The combined launcher-rocket of the “Tiangong-1” target spacecraft was transported to the launching site on the morning of September 20, and then function test was conducted on the launcher and the target spacecraft in addition to interface matching check, joint check upon locations of the launcher and the rocket, joint drill, and electromagnetic compatibility testing. The comprehensive joint rehearsal at the launching site conducted on September 25 was a comprehensive simulation drill according to the launching procedures which verified the working status of major systems.

At 14:30, the joint rehearsal entered the 3-hour countdown under the unified command of the Beijing Aerospace Control Center. The “Tiangong-1” target spacecraft will receive comprehensive quality review on all of its systems and complete fuel filling in the next few days.


Financial Crisis: Calculating the Probability of Extreme Events

Cumulative distribution and probability densit...                            Image via Wikipedia

ScienceDaily (Sep. 26, 2011) — It had to happen: the property bubble burst and the global financial market experienced its biggest crisis in the last hundred years. In retrospect, many suspected it was coming, but nobody could have known for sure. The traditional investment strategy failed, as all forms of investment suddenly collapsed at the same time. In order to calculate the probability of several such extreme events occurring at the same time, three scientists at the RUB have developed a new method. Prof. Dr. Holger Dette, Dr. Axel Bücher und Dr. Stanislav Volgushev from the Institute of Statistics (Faculty of Mathematics at the Ruhr-Universität) published their findings in the scientific journal The Annals of Statistics.

Big things start small

Up to now, when statisticians estimated the probabilities of extreme events, they usually calculated with dependencies between the outliers of statistical series. The outliers, however, make up the smallest part of a data set, e.g. the largest 100 out of 3,600 data. That means they ignore the dependencies of the bulk of the relevant data set, namely 3,500 data, and thus take the risk that important information is lost. Axel Bücher shows how this problem can be solved: “Our work provides a decision aid as to whether it is better to use the full range of data and not only the outliers. If all the data are relevant, then they should all be included. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes these data would falsify the result.”

Multidimensional function

The researchers use the copula function for the evaluation. “This is a complicated, multi-dimensional function, which characterises stochastic dependencies between the data” explains Stanislav Volgushev. With this aid, a few years ago we might have noticed that many little termites were nibbling their way into the wooden foundation of the global financial market, whilst we were on the look out for large predators.

Financial crises as motivation for research

“Our research is strongly motivated by the recent financial crises. At that time, almost all the economic models and forecasting tools for loan losses failed because they did not pay sufficient attention to extreme dependencies. In the long run, we aim to develop models and methods that predict such events better” says Prof. Dette, explaining the reason for their research. For several years, the three researchers have been looking into new methods of asymptotic statistics which work with sample sizes approaching infinity. They are financed by the German Research Foundation (DFG) in the Collaborative Research Centre SFB 823 “Statistical modelling of nonlinear dynamic processes.” The English-language publication bears the title “New estimators of the Pickands dependence function and a test for extreme-value dependence.”

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How To Kick Innovation Up a Notch to Nanovation?

Martin Zwilling, Contributor

Image via Wikipedia

What sparks paradigm-shifting innovation in any business? It’s a special mix of entrepreneur and company, regular in every respect except for having the courage and foresight to make an idea happen that was supposed to be impossible. As an entrepreneur in a startup, how do you know if you have this potential, and what are the steps to get from an innovation to a revolution?

The first step is to meditate on the examples set by others, like Steve Jobs of Apple, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, or Thomas Edison with the electric light. There are many others, like the one I just finished about Ratan Tata bringing out the Nano car in 2009 in India for less than $2,500. The book is called “Nanovation,” by Kevin & Jackie Freiberg.

These authors have studied many such examples, and summarize my own perspective on the characteristics of entrepreneurs they call “nanovators,” that produce true, life-changing innovations, which they call nanovations:

  1. Get wired for nanovation. We all agree that innovation is an adventure into the unknown. If you want people to follow, you need to be able to convince them of three things: (1) your mission is worth supporting, (2) you have the competence to build a critical mass, and (3) you have integrity to look out for their best interests along the way.
  2. Lead the revolution. Nanovators have more than the vision; they have the drive to lead, and the focus to stay on target. They are wired to win. Organizations don’t produce game-changing innovations; people do. They allow a leap of faith in their own ideas, as well as in the ideas and capabilities of their team.
  3. Build a culture of innovation. You need a culture where restlessness is tolerated, curiosity is encouraged, passion is inspired, creativity is expected, and people are always talking about what’s next. Ultimately, the mind-set changes so significantly that innovation is natural, and no one is conscious of it.
  4. Question the unquestionable. Outsiders ask a lot of questions because they don’t presume to know why something is done a certain way. Make your insiders think like outsiders. Provocative questions like “What if?”, “Why not?”, or “So what?” can help to get everyone outside the box.
  5. Look beyond customer imagination. First-of-a-kind products empower customers to do things they didn’t even know they wanted to do, and now can’t live without them. The computer mouse, Tivo, and Teflon are examples. Listen to customers, but remember that they can’t always tell you what they don’t know.
  6. Go to the intersection of trends. Nanovators pay close attention to the early warning signs that precede major cultural, societal, and market shifts. Where most people see an isolated trend, nanovators connect the dots by relating one trend to several others. They focus on next practices, versus best practices.
  7. Solve a problem that matters. The key here is to resist the temptation to pay more attention to the technology solution than the problem. Some people create brilliant solutions to non-existent problems, like maybe Segway and satellite phones. These solutions may be nice to have, but won’t ignite a revolution to get there.
  8. Risk more, fail faster, and bounce back stronger. When you pursue a creative idea that takes you beyond, fear tempts you to make compromises. If you can push through this fear and doubt, or bounce back intelligently from initial setbacks, you often arrive at something that has truly never been seen before.

Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric argues that the next big thing, like the Nano, could well be from “reverse innovation,” where instead of industrialized nations adapting their products for emerging markets, innovation in emerging markets will bring new paradigms to home markets. In any case, the future is defined by what we put off until tomorrow, so don’t wait too long to get started.

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Customer Service with a Snarl !

Service with a snarl

But Then Again By Mary Schneider

Gone are the days when you can expect politeness and pleasant smiles from your friendly customer service troops.

WHAT’S happening to customer service these days? I feel as if I’m constantly battling with technical support staff and frontline personnel who are becoming more and more rude and inept at their jobs.

Take the other day, for example, when I woke up to find that my car battery was as dead as Paris Hilton’s singing career, forcing me to seek out my nearest car repair shop to get it charged.

As I entered the premises, I was met by a manageress who looked as if she had a lemon stuck to the roof of her mouth. Rather than welcoming my business, she was surly and brusque to the point of rudeness.

Four hours later, when I called to find out how the battery charging was progressing, the Dragon Lady told me, somewhat haughtily, that I had to be patient. Later still, when I called again for another update, she breathed fire down the line and gave me the impression that I was harassing her.

The following morning, a baby-faced mechanic showed up at my house with my super-charged battery, a few tools and a packet of cigarettes.

“Surely, re-installing my battery won’t take so long that you need to have a cigarette break,” I wanted to say, but didn’t.

As he fiddled with the battery, I glanced at the packet of cigarettes lying on my doorstep. The front of the packet had a picture of what looked like a premature baby with an oxygen mask strapped to its tiny face.

“Look what cigarettes can do to unborn babies!” I wanted to say to the young man working beneath my bonnet, but didn’t.

You’d think that someone so youthful and agile would be able to install that battery before you could finish saying: “Did you know that Paris Hilton once cut a record?” But this chap redefined the word “slow”.

I watched impatiently as he attempted to connect the cables to the battery terminals using a spanner that was too big to get the job done – for a full 10 minutes.

Then he turned to me and said: “Do you have a size 10 spanner? I forgot mine.”

Like who did he think I was? The Fix-it Queen? His question would be tantamount to a cardiologist asking his patient if she happened to have a bypass machine in her overnight bag, just before administering the anaesthetic for her heart transplant surgery.

Nonetheless, I did have such a spanner conveniently stashed in a drawer by the front door – where I’d left it after removing the battery the day before. I produced it with a flourish, expecting Babyface to be surprised. But he took it from me as if it were the most normal thing in the world.

After connecting the cables, he spent a gazillion years trying to clamp the battery into place. As I watched him, entire species of animals became extinct, thousands of babies were born (some of them looking like the picture on the cigarette box), continental plates grunted and groaned, and stock markets around the world plunged ever deeper into crisis.

When his slothfulness became unbearable to watch, I withdrew into the living room and began writing a list of things that I needed to do as soon as I was mobile again.

No sooner had I written the first item (get recommendations for a new service centre) when Babyface poked his head around the door and asked for my car key.

Now, my car has two keys. One for the alarm system, and the other for the ignition. How was I to know that he wouldn’t know his arse from his elbow and would attempt to start the car with the wrong key, causing the alarm to go into “let’s disturb the entire neighbourhood” mode.

At this stage I was so agitated, that I took the key from his nicotine stained hand and said, in a somewhat irritated tone: “What have you done?”

He responded by uttering the four words that are guaranteed to make me more agitated: “Now please calm down!”

Ten minutes later, as he was slipping the premature baby into his back pocket, he turned to me and said: “My boss sent me here because I am the only one who can speak English. I usually work with Japanese cars, which are very complicated. Malaysian cars like your Proton Waja are very simple, but I don’t know how to repair them.”

I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or feel sorry for him.

But I do know where not to go if I have a flat battery in the future.

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The need to be assertive

Project Management InstituteImage by craig.martell via Flickr


One should be allowed to say ‘no’ and make a stand on an issue without feeling guilty or harassed.

RECENTLY, I met a female friend in Putrajaya who looked upset. I then decided to take her out for coffeee to find out the cause of her worries and stress.

My friend then confessed that she was unable to bring herself to tell a male member of her team that his sexist remarks to female team-mates were hurtful and that he should refrain from doing so.

I told her to be assertive and that she should tell him that such negative remarks should stop immediately.

“I am a woman and women aren’t like that,” she responded.

Since she is of a gentle, passive nature, I offered her some tips on being assertive and how it could help improve confidence and self-esteem.

Assertiveness is about having the confidence to have your say, to live your life without resorting to passive, aggressive or even manipulative behaviour.

It’s also about being not afraid to state your own needs while listening to the views of the other person, which in turn boosts your confidence and self-esteem.

A complicating factor in all this is about an individual’s childhood and culture.

For example, people who grew up with very strict parents and dominant older siblings may be less assertive.

Also, certain cultural values in which stereotypical behaviour of submissiveness, especially amongst girls, is bound to make behaviour at the work place more challenging.

However in some instances, whatever one’s childhood or cultural background, passive or aggressive behaviour may be a means of achieving their desired goals and it comes naturally.

Just observe some men who yell or women who sulk, or vice versa!

Assertiveness is a better option for desired outcomes because unlike the emotional basis of passive or aggressive behaviour, it is rooted in thinking and planning.

It is a savvy assessment of your needs and feelings in the light of practicalities, and the other person’s position. It can be learnt and is appropriate for men and women. It is also sensitive to different cultural values.

Assertiveness is also based on “rights”. They include the treatment of other people as equals, regardless of gender, race, age, disability or status.

Being assertive also means that one is able to to ask for what he wants, and to be listened to seriously. An individual should also be allowed to have this own opinions and to say “no” without feeling guilty and to change his mind and to hold to his own values.

As an exercise in self esteem-building, try saying out loud to your reflection in a mirror that you can do and carry out the tasks that worry you.

Keep telling yourself that, “I can do statistical work” or “I will make a good presentation”.

Do this several times a day. It does help, especially when you support confidence-building with practical steps like reading a book on basic statistics or on presentation skills. Situations that require assertiveness are usually stressful.

Fortunately, there is a simple exercise which will help relieve physical symptoms of stress like a rapidly-beating heart, sweaty palms or even a high-piched voice.

Before meeting the other party, press both palms of your hands together with the fingers pointing upwards and your forearms horizontal, until you feel the pressure in the heels of the palms and under your arms.

Breathe in and out slowly through a slightly open mouth, tightening the muscles between the ribs as you exhale and then relaxing them before you start the inhalation. Do three or four repetitions. It works.

If you read a previous article on body language you will remember that your body cues must match your words.

Adopt a relaxed stance, have good eye contact; hold your arms loosely at your sides or in your lap if seated; face tand lean slightly towards the other person.

Speak at normal conversational volume. Try to end with a smile.

The language of assertiveness is clear, direct and concise. This is about you: what you feel and want.

It is essential to use language appropriate to the person you are talking to, and not fall back on vocabulary, concepts or jargon beyond the other person’s understanding.

Assertiveness is not about superiority or cleverness.

“Should” and “could” are words to be used with caution when you want to be assertive.

“Could you do that for me?” “Could I ask for time off for all that overtime I worked?” “You should stop making sexist remarks!”

They create confusion to the listener about the legitimacy of your request.

The assertive wording would be “Please do that”; “I would like time off ….”; “Stop making….”

“Hope” is another word which interferes with your choices. You chose to work late because you can and want to. “I hope I can work late” implies doubt.

Assertiveness is thinking and speaking positively with confidence. It’s also about an honest evaluation of the situation and the other person and his/her opinions and needs before you even raise an issue. Is compromise possible? Are there personal considerations with the other person that need to be taken into account?

Avoid implied character criticism. “Please do/do not do something” is clear but neutral. “Why can’t you just do/not do…” implies a criticism of a specific character rather than a specific task in hand.

If what you ask for creates strong emotion in the other person, acknowledge this with a defusing statement such as: “I see you are unhappy with what I have just said, but I think it’s important for you to know my position and for us to have an open chat about it”.

Recognising the other person’s opinion is another good way of keeping the situation on an even keel: “I understand what you are saying BUT…..”.

Never use antagonistic phrases like: “Let me repeat”, “Are you listening?” or “Don’t interrupt”. And criticism without suggesting a solution is irrelevant and not at all helpful.

If you are in the position of having to apologise for a mistake, do it once, not repeatedly.

Be specific about why things went wrong. Don’t over-elaborate. Everyone makes a mistake now and then, even the boss.

Criticising a colleague is tough. But it will win you respect in the long run provided you do so in private and are fair, firm and specific.

Try and thank the other person if possible at the end of the conversation.

“Thank you for giving me the time to talk about this” or “I’m glad you understand”. Such statement will make both of you feel better.

Assertiveness is a way of life. It won’t always bring you a happy outcome.

However, it will make you comfortable with yourself and generate respect amongst colleagues and friends.

By the way, it may interest you to know that my friend feels a lot better now after being successful in putting an end to the sexist remarks in her office!

Alex Cummins is a trainer with the Professional Development Unit of the Brtish Council in Kuala Lumpur.

Rumblings of change

Map showing ASEAN member states Legend ██ ASEA...Image via Wikipedia


With the fast-rising giant that is today’s China, few established things can be assumed to be the same.

EVENTS that have become established through routine tend not to create a fuss, whatever the contentious issue may be.

However, when routine events produce surprising results, the implications may multiply exponentially. Such is the case with annual US arms sales to Taiwan, and China’s angry reactions to them.

Even though different years may see different combinations of disagreements between Beijing and Washington, the arms sales drama played out between the two capitals over a largely silent Taipei is an annual soap opera worth noting for the scale of its implications.

US plans to sell Taiwan US$6.4bil (RM20.3bil) of weapons last year strained relations between Beijing and Washington badly. Not only was this the largest amount in nearly 20 years, it came together with several other disagreements at the time.

The result was that Beijing suspended military relations with the US from January, besides considering sanctions against private US arms makers involved. The sale was a left-over from the preceding Bush administration’s policy that the Obama White House had tried to usher through.

This year it was “arms sales to Taiwan time” in Washington again. Taiwan had asked for a considerable package, but the US had been having second thoughts.

Taipei had sought a range of new weapons including a new fleet of F-16 jet fighters. But this time Washington said no, mindful of Beijing’s ire.

Instead of the new F-16s, Taiwan will instead get US$5.85bil (RM18.5bil) of “upgrades” for its existing fleet. That in turn led to some bipartisan criticism of the Obama administration in Congress.

Interestingly, Taiwan did not complain about the downgraded weapons sales. Instead it officially congratulated Washington for “going ahead” with its arms sales programme, all too aware of its weak position in the strategic triangle.

For China, any US military aid to Taiwan is still military assistance that could be used to attack the mainland, so Beijing protested all the same. But the atmosphere this time has become less antagonistic.

Just as the US had said no to Taiwan, albeit within limits, China’s protests were largely limited to news media commentaries and defence establishment statements. Both the US and China have come to a new understanding of each other’s concerns and their mutual interests.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi assured US businessmen in New York that bilateral relations would continue to grow, right after asking Washington to stop the jet upgrades. Those upgrades were not going to stop, especially when they were already a softer alternative to the full-blown sale of new F-16s, and China seemed satisfied enough with that.

Military might

The other issues at stake this year include China’s own military development, of which China watchers in the US are taking due note. However, a more significant factor for the US is a possible run on the dollar given that so much of US wealth, and loans, lies in China’s hands.

For its part, China is arranging for its next president, Xi Jinping, to visit Washington later this year. That means no souring of relations with the US is to be advised.

The US itself is gearing up for a presidential election next year. Washington is therefore understandably on its toes for now in regard to its relations with a fast-rising China.

All of this seems to leave some of the smaller countries in East Asia somewhat disoriented. Accustomed to US military and diplomatic dominance in the region for more than half a century, any sign of the US receding into the Pacific distance can be disconcerting for them.

This applies particularly to those countries that had hosted US military bases for decades.

Two days ago, the Philippines tried to form an Asean front by establishing a panel of legal experts in dealing with China’s claim over disputed islands in the South China Sea. The government of President Benigno Aquino III has consistently been active on this issue, notwithstanding the limited response it has received.

One reason for the apparent lack of Asean enthusiasm for Aquino’s plans is that he is trying to tackle a huge and long-established issue as Asean’s youngest leader with no clear direction.

Another reason is that Manila is sending confusing if not also conflicting signals over the issue. Last week the Philippines announced that Aquino would bring the issue of the disputed islands to Japan on his visit to Tokyo.

Japan has no involvement with claims to disputed islands in the South China Sea, although like the Philippines and Taiwan it has a security arrangement with the United States. Those arrangements vary in their terms and degree of US obligations, so taken together they are asymmetrical and non-comparable.

There is a sense in Asean that if disputes within Asean have yet to be solved within and by Asean, they are unlikely to be solved outside Asean.

To compound the confusion further, President Aquino was in Beijing from late last month to early this month soliciting for Chinese investment in the Philippines. From 2009 to 2010, bilateral trade grew more than 35%.

Aquino then said the trade was mostly in China’s favour, and he would like to balance it. He is more likely to succeed there than in competing claims over territory.

A current strand of opinion among US strategic thinkers is that the Philippines is beginning to see China as a “big brother” substitute for the US in East Asia. But given Manila’s actions and policies so far, nobody is likely to know what the Philippines wants to do, least of all Filipino lawmakers themselves.

NASA satellite falls back to Earth !

Dead satellite likely fell into Pacific Ocean–maybe

By: William Harwood, CNET

NASA’s decommissioned 6.3-ton Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, out of gas and out of control after two decades in space, plunged back into the atmosphere early Saturday, heating up, breaking apart, and presumably showering chunks of debris along a 500-mile-long Pacific Ocean impact zone. Maybe.

U.S. Strategic Command radar tracking indicated re-entry would occur around 12:16 a.m. EDT (GMT-4) Saturday as the satellite was descending across the Pacific Ocean on a southwest-to-northeast trajectory approaching Canada’s west coast. If re-entry occurred on or before the predicted time, any wreckage that survived atmospheric heating almost certainly fell into the Pacific Ocean.

NASA’s derelict Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite fell to Earth Saturday, presumably into the Pacific Ocean west of Canada. But it’s not yet a sure thing.

“Because we don’t know where the re-entry point actually was, we don’t know where the debris field might be,” said Nicholas Johnson, chief orbital debris scientist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

“If the re-entry point was at the (predicted time) of 04:16 GMT, then all that debris wound up in the Pacific Ocean. If the re-entry point occurred earlier than that, practically the entire pass before 04:16…is over water. So the only way debris could have probably reached land would be if the re-entry occurred after 04:16.”

Johnson said amateur satellite watchers in the U.S. northwest and the Canadian southwest were “looking to observe UARS as it came over. Every one of those attempts came up negative. That would suggest that the re-entry did, in fact, occur before it reached the North American coast, which, again, would mean most of this debris fell into the Pacific.”

But it’s not yet certain and it’s equally possible a delayed re-entry resulted in debris falling somewhere in northern Canada or elsewhere along the trajectory.

“We may never know,” Johnson told reporters in an afternoon teleconference.

The centerpiece of a $750 million mission, the Upper Atmosphere Research satellite was launched from the shuttle Discovery at 12:23 a.m. EDT (GMT-4) on Sept. 15, 1991. The solar-powered satellite studied a wide variety of atmospheric phenomena, including the depletion of Earth’s ozone layer 15 to 30 miles up.

The long-lived satellite was decommissioned in 2005, and one side of its orbit was lowered using the last of its fuel to hasten re-entry and minimize the chances of orbital collisions that could produce even more orbital debris. No more fuel was available for maneuvering and the satellite’s re-entry was “uncontrolled.”

As with all satellites in low-Earth orbit, UARS was a victim of atmospheric drag, the slow but steady reduction in velocity, and thus altitude, caused by flying through the tenuous extreme upper atmosphere at some five miles per second.

UARS’ final trajectory as it neared the discernible atmosphere proved difficult to predict. The descent slowed somewhat Friday, presumably because the spacecraft’s orientation changed. As the day wore on, the predicted impact time slipped from Friday afternoon to early Saturday.

Johnson said falling satellites typically begin breaking up at an altitude of around 50 miles. In the case of UARS, computer analysis indicated about 26 pieces of debris would survive to reach the surface, spread out along a 500-mile-long down-range footprint. Johnson said the heel of the footprint, the area where the lightest debris might fall, is typically 300 miles or so beyond the breakup point.

But so far, “we’ve got no reports of anyone seeing anything that we believe are credible,” Johnson said.

Johnson told reporters last week he expected most of the satellite to burn up as it slammed into the dense lower atmosphere at more than 17,000 mph. But computer software used to analyze possible re-entry outcomes predicted 26 pieces of debris would survive to impact the surface, the largest weighing some 330 pounds. Impact velocities were expected to range from 30 mph to 240 mph.

“We looked at those 26 pieces and how big they are, and we’ve looked at the fact they can hit anywhere in the world between 57 north and 57 south, and we looked at what the population density of the world is,” he said. “Numerically, it comes out to a chance of 1 in 3,200 that one person anywhere in the world might be struck by a piece of debris. Those are obviously very, very low odds that anybody’s going to be impacted by this debris.”

For comparison, some 42.5 tons of wreckage from the shuttle Columbia hit the ground in a footprint stretching from central Texas to Louisiana when the orbiter broke apart during re-entry in 2003. No one on the ground was injured and no significant property damage was reported.

The UARS satellite is deployed into orbit in 1992.

An astronaut picture of the UARS satellite being deployed in 1991.

Photograph courtesy NASA

An astronaut picture of the UARS satellite being deployed in 1991.

Photograph courtesy NASA

Traci Watson for National Geographic News

Defying predictions one last time, NASA‘s doomed UARS satellite dove through Earth’s atmosphere late last night over the North Pacific Ocean, off the U.S. West Coast, the space agency says. (Also see “Space Debris: Five Unexpected Objects That Fell to Earth.”)

As recently as Friday morning, U.S. officials had forecast that the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, or UARS, would fall out of the sky in the late afternoon or early evening Friday, eastern time.

(See “NASA Satellite Falling Faster Due to Solar Activity.”)

But the satellite shifted position as it tumbled toward the planet, forcing scientists to throw out their earlier time estimates.

NASA said early Saturday that UARS fell out of orbit sometime between 11:23 p.m. and 1:09 a.m. ET.

Amateur satellite trackers in places such as San Antonio, Texas, and northern Minnesota reported catching glimpses of UARS as it made its final, doomed circles around Earth.

Though the spacecraft plummeted over the Pacific, it’s still not clear exactly where debris from the satellite has landed. Pieces of the satellite will be strung along a debris “footprint” stretching 500 miles (800 kilometers).

So far there are “no reports of any damage or injury,” NASA said via Twitter close to midday Saturday.

Satellite Pieces Not For Sale

UARS, which weighed more than six tons, was lofted into orbit by the space shuttle Discovery in 1991. The craft recorded data on Earth’s atmosphere until it was switched off in 2005.

Some 1,100 pounds (500 kilograms) of debris from the satellite were projected to survive the superheated descent through the atmosphere. The biggest intact piece, NASA said, would probably be a 300-pound (140-kilogram) chunk of the spacecraft’s structure.

NASA warned the curious not to touch any pieces of the spacecraft that may have made it to the ground, because of the risk of sharp edges.

The space agency also tried to head off sales of UARS remnants on Internet auction sites such as eBay.

“Any pieces of UARS found are still the property of the country that made it,” NASA warned via Twitter this morning. “You’ll have to give ’em back to U.S.”

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Lifeless satellite falls back to Earth

(China Daily)

Lifeless satellite falls back to Earth

Junk left from colliding satellites floats through space in this computer-generated image. NASA confirmed that two communication satellites from the United States and Russia collided 800 kilometers above northern Siberia on Sept 10. [Provided to China Daily]

NASA assures public that there is little chance of getting hit by debris

WASHINGTON – Fragments from an old 6-ton NASA satellite hurtled toward Earth on Friday, while the exact site of the crash-landing remained a mystery into the final hours.

The US space agency has stressed that the risk is “extremely small” that any of the 26 chunks that are expected to survive the fiery re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere will hit one of the planet’s seven billion people a one in 3,200 chance.

“Re-entry is possible sometime during the afternoon or early evening of Sept 23, Eastern Daylight Time,” NASA said on its website on Thursday night.

That would be early morning Saturday Beijing time.

“It is still too early to predict the time and location of re-entry with any more certainty, but predictions will become more refined in the next 24 hours.”

The influence of solar flares and the tumbling motion of the satellite make narrowing down the landing a particularly difficult task, experts said as the Internet lit up with rumors of where and when it would fall.

The US Department of Defense and NASA were busy tracking the debris and keeping all federal disaster agencies informed, a NASA spokeswoman said.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice on Thursday to pilots and flight crews of the potential hazard and urged them to “report any observed falling space debris to the appropriate (air traffic control) facility and include position, altitude, time and direction of debris observed,” CNN said.

The satellite was launched in 1991 and was designed to provide data for better understanding Earth’s upper atmosphere and the effects of natural and human interactions on the atmosphere. The satellite was deactivated in 2005 as it ran out of fuel and was left orbiting Earth.

Orbital debris experts say space junk of this size from broken-down satellites and spent rockets tends to fall back to Earth about once a year, though this is the biggest NASA satellite to fall in three decades.

NASA’s Skylab crashed into western Australia in 1979.

The surviving chunks of the tour-bus sized satellite will include titanium fuel tanks, beryllium housing and stainless steel batteries and wheel rims. The parts may weigh as little as one kg or as much as 158 kg, NASA said.

Orbital debris scientists say the pieces will fall somewhere between 57 north latitude and 57 south latitude, which covers most of the populated world.

The debris field is expected to span 800 square kilometers.

Pang Zhihao, a researcher from the Chinese Research Institute of Space Technology, told Xinhua that the crash could have been avoided had the satellite been put into a higher orbit, or manipulated to drop in the South Pacific when it had abundant fuel.

Lifeless satellite falls back to Earth

Pang said most spacecraft will incinerate upon re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, and the debris will mostly likely fall into the ocean or hit an uninhabited area.

NASA has also said that in 50 years of space exploration no one has ever been confirmed injured by falling space junk.

The craft contains no fuel and so is not expected to explode on impact.

“No consideration ever was given to shooting it down,” NASA spokeswoman Beth Dickey said.

NASA has warned anyone who comes across what they believe may be debris not to touch it but to contact authorities for assistance.

Space law professor Frans von der Dunk from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Law told AFP that the United States will likely have to pay damages to any country where the debris falls.

“The damage to be compensated is essentially without limit,” von der Dunk said, referring to the 1972 Liability Convention to which the United States is one of 80 signatories.

“Damage here concerns ‘loss of life, personal injury or other impairment of health; or loss of or damage to property of States or of persons, natural or juridical, or property of international intergovernmental organizations,'” he said, reading from the agreement.

However, the issue could get thornier if the debris causes damage in a country that is not part of the convention.

“The number of countries so far theoretically at risk is rather large, so there may be an issue if damage would be caused to a state not being party to the Liability Convention,” he said.


Huge Tumbling Satellite Could Fall to Earth Over US Tonight or Saturday, NASA Says

by Tariq Malik, Managing Editor
The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite is in the grasp of the remote manipulator system end effector above the payload bay of the Earth-orbiting Discovery during STS-48 pre-deployment checkout procedures.
The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite is in the grasp of the remote manipulator system end effector above the payload bay of the Earth-orbiting Discovery during STS-48 pre-deployment checkout procedures.
CREDIT: NASA Johnson Space Center

This story was updated at 2:04 p.m. ET

A huge, dead satellite tumbling to Earth is falling slower than expected, and may now plummet down somewhere over the United States tonight or early Saturday, despite forecasts that it would miss North America entirely, NASA officials now say.

The 6 1/2-ton Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) was expected to fall to Earth sometime this afternoon (Sept. 23), but changes in the school bus-size satellite’s motion may push it to early Saturday, according to NASA’s latest observations of the spacecraft.

“The satellite’s orientation or configuration apparently has changed, and that is now slowing its descent,” NASA officials wrote in a morning status update today. “There is a low probability any debris that survives re-entry will land in the United States, but the possibility cannot be discounted because of this changing rate of descent.” [Complete coverage of NASA’s falling satellite]

NASA expects about 26 large pieces of the UARS spacecraft to survive re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere and reach the planet’s surface. The biggest piece should weigh about 300 pounds. The spacecraft is the largest NASA satellite to fall from space uncontrolled since 1979. [6 Biggest Spacecraft to Fall Uncontrolled From Space]

NASA officials have said the the chances that a piece of UARS debris hits and injures one of the nearly 7 billion people on the planet are about 1 in 3,200. However, the personal odds of you being struck by UARS satellite debris are actually about 1 in several trillion, NASA officials have said.

As of 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) today, the UARS satellite was flying in an orbit of about 100 miles by 105 miles (160 kilometers by 170 km), and dropping.  NASA launched the UARS satellite in 1991 to study Earth’s ozone layer and upper atmosphere. The satellite was decommissioned in 2005.

“Re-entry is expected late Friday, Sept. 23, or early Saturday, Sept. 24, Eastern Daylight Time,” NASA officials wrote. “Solar activity is no longer the major factor in the satellite’s rate of descent.”

The sun has had an extremely active week, one that has included several solar flares. High solar activity can cause the Earth’s atmosphere to heat and expand, which can increase drag on a low-flying satellite like UARS, making it fall faster.

Get a snapshot view of NASA's Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), which will fall to Earth in 2011, in this infographic.
Get a snapshot view of NASA’s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), which will fall to Earth in 2011, in this infographic.
CREDIT: Karl Tate, Contributor

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