NASA’s OGO-1 Was Finally Falling From the Sky After Five Decades

old spacecraft spotted

The University of Hawaii’s ATLAS (the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System) and the University of Arizona’s Catalina Sky Survey captured quite the event. What appeared to be a small, incoming object on an impact trajectory with our planet turned out to be an unexpected thing.

Closer observation unveiled it wasn’t an asteroid at all. Almost five decades after it was sent into space, NASA’s Orbiting Geophysics Observatory 1 (OGO-1) fell from the sky. Here is what you need to know.

OGO-1’s Journey and Other Significant Details

OGO-1 began its mission back in September 1964, when it reached the equatorial Earth orbit. Alongside the other five satellites in the OGO series, OGO-1 was developed to survey Earth, its atmosphere, magnetosphere, the effect of the Sun on near-Earth space, and the distance between Earth and the Moon. 

OGO-1 succeeded in spending five years gathering data for its mission before it was no longer active. It was placed in standby mode in 1969 and discommissioned in 1971. Since then, the satellite of 487 kilograms has been nothing but a lifeless chunk of machinery slowly reaching its doom. And that’s because its eccentric orbit took it closer to Earth. 

The event is a standard procedure for decommissioned satellites, to take them from the crowded space around Earth, to lower the risk of collisions in space, which can produce more dangerous space debris. But, even if OGO-1 was the first sent in its series, it was the only OGO satellite that stayed so much in the space. OGO-2, through OGO-6, for instance, safely deorbited beginning in 1972, with OGO-5 ending its mission forever in 2011. 

All the satellites burned up on re-entry, their debris falling into the sea. OGO-1’s entry was 25 minutes earlier and a little farther east than anticipated. However, according to NASA, it burned up over the South Pacific ocean, almost 160 kilometers southeast of Tahiti.

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