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Your Chances of Getting Hit by a Falling Satellite

Updated on February 15, 2013
Greekgeek profile image

Daughter of a rocket engineer, granddaughter of a planetarium director, I've been a huge fan of astronomy and space exploration all my life.

Heads Up

NASA: UARS satellite. (Artist's Depiction)
NASA: UARS satellite. (Artist's Depiction)

1 in 3200? Uh Oh!

It's September 2011, and media outlets are spicing up a quiet news cycle with space junk. A dead satellite is coming down, and they're saying that the chances of it hitting someone, are 1 in 3200. Thanks to those massive solar flares I've mentioned before, the satellite is dragging and is scheduled to fall early. How exciting!

Now, a probability of 1 in 3200 sounds alarming. That's almost the same as the chances of my doing laundry today (somehow, I don't think my jeans are in any danger of getting wet).

Luckily, that is only the chance of someone getting hit somewhere on the Earth, not the probability of each of us getting hit by a rogue satellite in a dastardly plot by God to collect on all our life insurance policies. No, God is clearly after Uncle Bob's life insurance policy.

So, what are the chances for poor Uncle Bob?

Well, 1/3200 is the probability of any human being being struck by this particular falling satellite. The population of the Earth is nearly 7 billion. Therefore:

3200 x 7,000,000,000 = 22,400,000,000,000

So the chances of your getting struck by this particular falling satellite are 1 in 22,400,000,000,000.

Not bad, but Uncle Bob might had better wear a hard hat in case God is loading the dice.

Of course, your chances of being struck by space junk will vary somewhat according to the size, composition, and debris path, but usually we don't need to worry — at least on the ground. I'm sure the International Space Station crew would prefer there were fewer pieces of space junk floating around.

Nonetheless, I'm amazed that the probability of the UARS satellite hitting a human being on the ground is that high. 1 in 3200? The Earth is enormous! That's an awful lot of human beings coating its surface.

Humanity is starting to resemble my overflowing laundry, with Earth as the basket. Unfortunately, I am afraid the problem will fix itself as we continue to shower waste and trash all over the planet until the probability of being hit by something we've thrown away approaches 1.

Great DVD on Space Program

When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions (4-Disc Set)
When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions (4-Disc Set)

This amazing series covers the U.S. Space program from Mercury and Apollo through the triumphs and tragedies of the shuttle program. A fascinating look back, with plenty of amazing footage that you've never seen before.



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    • felicitylovespari profile image

      felicitylovespari 6 years ago

      One in 3200 chance of it hitting a human isn't too bad I guess. Watch out for those darn satellites. Knocking on wood.

    • Abby Lysach profile image

      Abby Lysach 6 years ago from Singapore

      wooo... those maths... well, I think the life insurance or a helmet would not solve the problem ha ha... thanks for posting it. Nice hub.

    • Cloverleaf profile image

      Cloverleaf 6 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

      Hi greekgeek,

      Thanks for clearing this up! I'm off to buy a very good helmet which I will wear always. Lol.

      Great hub,


    • Greekgeek profile image

      Ellen 6 years ago from California

      sparkster: oops! *wipes egg off face*. Thank you.. All right, we're not that overpopulated then.

      Venzhvam: when you copy and paste someone's words directly, it's a copyright violation. If it's something you know yourself, just say it in your own words. But thank you again! :)

    • VENZKHVAM profile image

      VENZKHVAM 6 years ago from Milk way galaxy, trying to find a more adventurous place in another galaxy with my great followers

      I didn't know that but certain facts are universal so may be available in by itself. thanks for reposting.

    • sparkster profile image

      Sparkster Publishing 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      I'm sorry but the population of Earth is approximately 7 billion, not 7 trillion.

    • Greekgeek profile image

      Ellen 6 years ago from California

      Yes, I'm afraid I'm being a little too flippant about space junk: it IS a problem we need to address, because there's astronauts and equipment up there which could be killed or disabled by it. I'm glad space agencies are finally trying to take steps to mitigate the problem.

      Dinesh, I'm going to delete your comment and repost, if you don't mind, because I don't want to get in trouble for the article you copied and pasted into the comment box. It's an excellent article, but it's from another site, so I'm concerned about copyright.

      Your comment:

      OMG when that will fall i will catch it with my heman hands.


      [Quoted article: "The Problem With Space Debris"]


      I had voted this up and interesting.

      With warm regards

      Dinesh Nair

    • ttagpine profile image

      George S McChristian 6 years ago from Louisiana, USA

      Skylab had a 7 to 1 chance of hitting a city with a population of more than 100,000, & 152 to 1 of hitting a human.