KEY POINTS

  • OGO-1 satellite finally returned home to Earth after 56 years in space
  • It is much like an artifact from earlier years of space age
  • Footage of its return shows the satellite disintegrating as it reenters the atmosphere

A NASA satellite that has been retired for decades finally returned home this past weekend. Its glorious homecoming marks the end of an artifact from the earlier era of the space age.

In September of 1964, NASA launched the satellite known as Orbiting Geophysics Observatory 1 (OGO-1) as the first of a series of six missions that were launched until 1969 in hopes of understanding the planet better.

Also called the "streetcar satellite," OGO spacecrafts were considered very capable and were among the NASA satellites deployed in the early years of space science.

For several years, OGO-1 orbited the Earth until the early 1970's when all support from the mission was ended. Since then, OGO-1 simply orbited the Earth as space debris and, in the years that followed, its fellow OGO satellites returned to Earth in a fiery descent.

Last week, it was confirmed that OGO-1 is finally coming back home after what was initially thought to be an asteroid turned out to be the satellite plummeting towards the Earth's atmosphere. With NASA estimating the spacecraft to reenter the atmosphere on Aug. 29, at 5:10 pm EDT over the South Pacific Ocean, the actual reentry was only about 25 minutes earlier as OGO-1 made its return to Earth at 4:44pm EDT that day.

NASA spokesperson Josh Handal confirmed the reentry to Space.com and noted that it did not pose any danger or threat to humans. Handal further told the outlet that apart from the agency's own tracking of the satellite, they also received reports of the event from locals in nearby Tahiti.

In an update on the agency's news release about OGO-1 from last week, the agency specified the time and exact location of the reentry, which was only slightly different from the estimates.

"Latitude -19.7, Longitude -148.1. This is further east of the original predicted location, approximately 100 miles southeast of Tahiti," NASA said. "This update aligns with reentry location based on eyewitness accounts from Tahiti."

The moment that it reentered the atmosphere and disintegrated was captured and shared by a community called PYF Spotters, with the footage showing the spacecraft as it was falling from the sky looking like a meteor then disintegrated into smaller pieces.

Satellite Image: Representative image of a satellite in orbit. Photo: Pixabay