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The Toxic Fridge That Fell To Earth

Illustration for article titled The Toxic Fridge That Fell To Earth

Here's a lesson that they apparently don't teach in Astronaut school: No matter how old something may be, don't throw it out of your space station. Just in case it, you know, only manages to stay in orbit for a year or so before plummeting to Earth. Especially if said object is a tank of toxic ammonia coolant the size of a fridge. Yeah, we're talking to you, NASA Astronaut Clay Anderson.Sunday saw the splashdown of what little remained of a 1400-pound ammonia coolant tank dumped from the International Space Station in June 2007 by Anderson, after NASA had decided that it was too old to survive a trip back to Earth aboard a space shuttle. While NASA tracked the tank as it floated in space, the intergalactic trash slowly discovered the lure of gravity... and started plunging towards our planet. NASA space station program manager Mike Suffredini was one of the people following the tank's progress before it's Sunday touchdown:

What debris may have been still together after re-entry, it fell into the ocean between Australia and New Zealand... I know a lot of folks were wondering what the end result of that was.

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The end result was estimated at around 15 pieces of the tank surviving re-entry, each one somewhere between 1.4 ounces and 40 pounds. The largest pieces were estimated at hitting the ocean at speeds around 100 mph. Am I the only one worried about what would have happened had the debris not hit an ocean...? Space Station Trash Burns Up Over South Pacific [Space.com]

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