It has been wandering for years in space, the "grandfather" satellite is headed for Earth, experts warn


It has been wandering for years in space, the "grandfather" satellite

A European satellite that has been wandering in space for years is expected to fall to Earth in the next few hours.

ERS-2 was a sophisticated observation platform when it was launched in 1995, incorporating technologies now routinely used to monitor the planet.

It has been gradually falling since operations ended in 2011 and is expected to enter the atmosphere uncontrollably by the minute.

The European Space Agency says most of the two-tonne satellite will burn up during the fall, without specifying where the debris will fall.

It is possible that some stronger pieces can withstand the high temperatures, but the chances of these fragments hitting residential areas and causing damage are slim.

The agency launched two nearly identical Remote Sensing satellites in the 1990s. They were the most sophisticated planetary observers of their time, carrying a variety of instruments to track changes in the land, oceans and air.

They monitored floods, measured continental and ocean surface temperatures, tracked the movement of ice fields and sensed the earth's shaking during earthquakes.

And ERS-2, specifically, introduced a new capability to assess the Earth's protective ozone layer.