Europe’s biggest, most sophisticated spaceship is about to bring its six-month mission to an end by plunging into the Pacific in a ball of flames.
Mike Steinkopf, the mission director for re-entry, says a “safety zone” has been drawn in the south Pacific some 2,700km long by 200km wide. “We issue a notification to the air traffic and maritime authorities to make sure there are no planes or boats going through that zone during our re-entry time,” he told BBC News. … “We expect the solar panels to break just two-and-a-half-minutes after the entry into the atmosphere; and then we will have fragmentation of the docking adaptor, protective shields and other structural elements,” explained Mr Steinkopf. “Nevertheless, statistically speaking, there will be about 30% of the overall vehicle that may reach the ocean, but only in bits and pieces.”
Adds The ESA ATV blog has photos.