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IT'S LIKE DROPPING A PENNY INTO WATER

On October 28, 1993, the U.S. Space Command watched as a two-ton chunk of a Chinese satellite began to reenter the earth’s atmosphere. According to their calculations, this satellite would plunge into the Pacific Ocean 500 west of Baja, California. When it plunged into the atmosphere, however, it skipped south and took and unexpected detour, landing in the Pacific Ocean west of Peru.

Major Bob Butts explained that space debris traveling at 17,000 miles per hour takes unpredictable twists and turns when it enters into thickening atmosphere. It’s like dropping a penny into water. "Sometimes it goes straight down, and sometimes it turns end over end and changes direction."

On October 18 when Chinese scientists radioed the reentry commands, the satellite went out of control, split in two, and stayed in orbit. They predicted it would stay in orbit another six months; in fact, it stayed up only another ten days, coming down a few hours earlier than even the US space agency thought.

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