The Spacecraft that Fell to Earth Slowly

Cygnus

A large piece of space hardware, the Cygnus OA6, was guided to fall back to Earth on a shallow trajectory on June 22, 2016, in the uninhabited Southern Pacific Ocean.  Creating a horizon-to-horizon man-made meteor, this spectacular re-entry was studied by an international airborne team led by SETI Institute scientist Peter Jenniskens.  Their work will give insight into the behavior of other space debris objects that enter at grazing angles, and prepare for an observing campaign to study the impact of one of the small asteroids that frequently impact our planet.

cygnusCygnus spacecraft on approach to the ISS. Photo courtesy of astronaut Tim Peake.

The team has created videos and photos of this spectacular event, as well as a detailed log of their experience.  You can see the re-entry and share the excitement at http://atv5.seti.org/cygnus/