38 years later, a retired NASA satellite returns to Earth

The ERBS satellite , vital for confirming that the ozone layer is disappearing, re-entered Earth this Sunday over the Bering Sea, according to NASA .


38 years after being launched into space, NASA ‘s Earth Radiation Budget Satellite ( ERBS ) returned to Earth 

The ship re-entered the planet this Sunday night over the Bering Sea, it is not clear if it completely disintegrated in the atmosphere or if some parts of the ship managed to reach the surface.

A mission of decades

ERBS was launched in 1984 aboard the Challenger space shuttle.

The satellite’s useful life was planned to be two years: it ended up operating a total of 21.

Until 2005, ERBS data helped researchers investigate how Earth absorbed and radiated energy from the Sun, and measured concentrations of ozone, water vapor, nitrogen dioxide, and aerosols in Earth’s stratosphere.

An instrument aboard ERBS , the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment II (SAGE II), collected data confirming that the ozone layer was declining on a global scale, NASA said .

Such information was vital in shaping the Montreal Accords, an international treaty that limited the use of carbon-destroying chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

Legacy that lives on

NASA has continued to build on the success of the ERBS mission with projects including the current Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) satellite instrument suite .

Currently, the new SAGE III has been relocated to the International Space Station to continue collecting data on the health of the ozone layer.