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Falling Satellite Path Update: UARS Slowing Down as Smash Nears

The huge satellite falling back to Earth has showed signs of slowing down, NASA said Friday.

The U.S. remains in the potential striking zone of the satellite, but it will not re-enter the atmosphere until late Friday or early Saturday.

Friday morning, NASA said it would be hours until they would be able to predict the time and point of re-entry; but that the falling satellite would most likely land in the ocean north of Australia.

The 6.5-ton satellite formerly served as a research tool for ozone and chemical counts in the upper hemisphere. About the same size of a school bus, the satellite is known as UARS, and has been in orbit for 20 years.

NASA’s Mark Matney of the Orbital Debris team in Houston told CNN that there is no way to predict landfall of the UARS, which will break into pieces.

Matney adds that even though the descent of the debris has slowed, that they are still falling rapidly.

“Keep in mind they won’t be traveling at those high orbital velocities. As they hit the air they tend to slow down,” he explained. “They’re still traveling fast, a few tens to hundreds miles per hour, but no longer those tremendous orbital velocities.”

NASA reports that most, if not all, surviving debris is predicted to land in water, which covers 70 percent of Earth’s surface. The agency notes that if any debris does strike land, that the chances of it hitting anyone is very slim.

NASA has established 24-hour tracking locations in various locations to monitor the satellite’s path.

Fox News has set up a website call widget for viewers to also track the descent of UARS.

Only one person in history has ever been struck by a piece of satellite: Lottie Mae Williams in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Most of the pieces, composed of titanium, beryllium, and stainless steel, will be dissolved into the Earth’s atmosphere, but 26 portions will remain intact. The pieces, which could weigh 10 to 300 pounds each, could land over the span of 500 miles.

Once satellite debris reaches the atmosphere 50 miles up, it will only take a matter of minutes for surviving pieces to hit the Earth, NASA said.

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