ASA Marshall Space Center/Rex Features
NASA's 6-ton UARS satellite will crash randomly to Earth by next weekend. The satellite has ran out of gas and can't be maneuvered for a controlled crash-down. The good news is it will break up into 26 separate components that may only weigh a fer hundred pounds. There is a 1 in 3200 chance of someone getting hit.
A nearly 6-ton satellite is heading toward Earth and could crash into the planet as early as Sept. 23, NASA officials said.
The UARS -- short for Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite -- has been in orbit since the space shuttle Discovery launched it in 1991, but it's gradually coming closer and closer to the ground as it encounters friction from the upper reaches of the atmosphere.
NASA officials told ABC News overnight that they won't know where the satellite will hit until two hours before it enters the Earth's atmosphere, moving at 5 mph.
The chances of anyone getting hit by the UARS satellite are 1 in 3,200, NASA said.
The "productive science life" of the satellite ended in 2005 when it ran out of fuel, according to NASA's website. That fuel could have been used by the satellite to ditch itself in the Pacific.
The satellite will break into pieces as it crashes toward Earth but not all of it will burn up. Scientists have identified 26 separate components that will likely survive with the debris, spreading out over 400 to 500 miles. Engineers say 1,200 pounds of metal chunks could make it down to the surface.