Rocket Lab's Giant Space Disco Ball 'Humanity Star' Incinerated as It Fell Back to Earth Ahead of Schedule

Thursday, 22 March 2018 - 2:00PM
Astronomy
Technology
Thursday, 22 March 2018 - 2:00PM
Rocket Lab's Giant Space Disco Ball 'Humanity Star' Incinerated as It Fell Back to Earth Ahead of Schedule
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Image credit: YouTube

Back in January, New Zealand-based spaceflight company Rocket Lab launched a controversial satellite called the Humanity Star into space as a "temporary symbol in the night sky that encouraged everyone to look up, ponder humanity's place in the universe and think about how we can work together as one species to solve the challenges facing us all."

 

According to reports, the big carbon fiber orb just fell back to Earth, burning up upon re-entry, a mere two months after its launch because something went wrong.



The Humanity Star was intended to dazzle Earthlings for nine months but has fallen out of orbit. Experts think that Rocket Lab's calculations were off, given the object's weird size and mass.

"Compared to the average satellite, [the Humanity Star] is mostly empty," said Jonathan McDowell, astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "It's big for its mass, so therefore it kind of floats. It gets blown around by the wind more."



The Humanity Star website has been updated to let fans know about its deorbit, but it does not mention human error as the reason. "The Humanity Star was designed to have a brief orbital lifespan. It was placed into a low perigee elliptical orbit of 300 x 500 km, where its altitude dropped with every pass at perigee. This, combined with a low surface to mass area, meant the Humanity Star experienced significant atmospheric drag, pulling it back into the Earth's atmosphere in a matter of weeks." 



"In the coming days, The Humanity Star will begin its final descent into the Earth's atmosphere where it will burn up on re-entry, leaving no trace," reads the latest update. In the FAQ section, the company states that the project was a one-off and that there will not be a second model, so if you missed it, you missed it. Luckily, there are a few videos online from those who did manage to catch a glimpse of the disco ball.

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