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Battered Soviet spacecraft will plummet decades after a failed mission

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By Tom Metcalfe

When the space probe Cosmos 482 was launched in 1972 in Leonid from Kazakhstan Brezhnev was in the Kremlin, and the Soviet Union fought with the US for supremacy in space ,

Five decades later, the Soviet Union and its ambitious space program are no more. But the now badly damaged robot spaceship is still orbiting the earth. And experts agree that it's about to fall to the surface of the planet ̵

1; with little chance of damage or injury.

The Cosmos 482 is a sister spacecraft of the Venera 8 probe shown here in a 1971 photograph. RIA Novosti / Sputnik via AP

When will the vehicle fall off? A news agency cited an expert who said it might fall this year or early 2020. Other experts specify a different schedule. "I'm pretty confident to say at least the early 2020s, and I would not be surprised if it were the late 2020s," said Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Earth loses some speed and does not rise that much next time, "he added. With each orbit, the train from the thin upper atmosphere of the earth accelerates the speed of the probe a bit: "The orbit eventually becomes too low."

Falling Soviet Space Probe

The Russian space historian Pavel Shubin agrees that Cosmos becomes 482 probably still survive in orbit for several more years. "I made an assessment last year and found that it can fly for quite a long time," he said in an e-mail, anchoring reentry around 2026.

The high orbital speed of Kosmos 482 – about 17,000 miles per hour per hour – makes it impossible to predict where the probe will come from. McDowell, however, said it is likely that he will crash into the ocean or hit unoccupied land within about 4,000 miles on either side of the equator – an area that covers more than half of the Earth's surface.

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