Satellite ERS-2 falls toward Mercury Mercury Re-entry: ESA

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After spending more than a decade on a mission in space, the now-defunct satellite is expected to return to Earth on Wednesday.

ERS-2One of the European Space Agency's first advanced Earth-observing satellites will re-enter “nature” after 16 years in space.

Live updates from ESA

According to Live updates From ESA, the agency predicts that reentry will occur at 12:05pm EST, with an uncertainty of plus or minus 30 minutes, but we've now passed the center of the reentry window.

ERS-2 was launched in 1995 and was initially planned to serve ESA for three years. However, it remained operational until 2011, providing data for more than 5,000 projects, including monitoring Earth's shrinking polar ice, sea levels, and atmospheric makeup.

Most of the 2.5 ton satellite will disintegrate in Earth's atmosphere. According to the agency. The rest of the debris is likely to end up in waterways, though the agency has no estimate of where it will end up.

Graphics: The dead satellite will fall back to Earth this Wednesday. What do you know?

Where will the satellite re-enter?

In its latest update, ESA identified a re-entry point about 50 miles away in the Pacific Ocean. Upon re-entry, the satellite will begin to break up and most of it will burn up, leaving the remaining pieces scattered hundreds of kilometers (1 kilometer = 0.62 miles) “somewhat randomly,” ESA predicts.

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The ESA stresses that the point of re-entry is not certain due to the difficulty in predicting the density of the air through which the object passes.

How ERS-2 spent its time in space

The space agency used the satellite to monitor Earth's shrinking polar ice caps, changing landmasses, rising sea levels, warming oceans and changing atmospheric chemistry. Since the satellite's retirement, the company has been slowly reducing its altitude.

Contributing: James Powell, USA Today workers

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