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Trash crash: Space litter makes landing

Well, that’s a relief.

A 1,400-pound (635-kilogram) ammonia tank burned up over the Pacific Ocean late Sunday, more than a year after an astronaut chucked it from the International Space Station because it had become obsolete, NASA said yesterday.

"What debris may have been still together after re-entry, it fell into the ocean between Australia and New Zealand," Mike Suffredini, NASA's space station program manager, told reporters yesterday, according to Space.com. "I know a lot of folks were wondering what the end result of that was."

Up to 15 pieces of the tank could have survived its re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, with the largest, 40-pound (17.5-kilogram) pieces plunging into sea at up to 100 miles (164 kilometers) per hour, the Web site reported.

Clay Anderson tossed the Early Ammonia Servicer, a backup cooling system, on July 23, 2007 after an upgrade to the space station made it superfluous. Atmospheric drag gave the refrigerator-sized tank a leisurely, 15-month trip down to Earth.

Astronauts routinely trash equipment in space. Most of it – including a 212-pound (96-kilogram) video camera stand Anderson got rid of during the same spacewalk – burns up before making impact on Earth.

(Astronaut Clay Anderson waves just before chucking the International Space Station's obsolete, backup cooling system, July 23, 2007/NASA)

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