What Are This Unlucky Guy’s Odds of Getting Whacked by UARS?

By ABC News

Sep 21, 2011 7:00pm

ABC News’ Kevin Quinn and Gina Sunseri report:

Thomas Burnett of Houston thinks if anyone is going to be hit by the doomed satellite plunging back to Earth, it will be him.

The odds of being hit by lightning in a lifetime are 1 in 10,000, according to the National Weather Service. But, completely defying those odds, Burnett has been zapped three times – twice through the phone and once through his television.  

He was in line for lottery tickets when we met him, joking about his chances of winning the lottery.

While shaking his head Burnett said, “Not very good – not for me, you know. I wish it was the other way around. I wish I was winning the lottery - right? - as opposed to the lightning. It is just my luck: I get the lightning and no money.  Maybe one day.”

We asked if he had heard about the UARS satellite that is scheduled to come crashing down to Earth. The odds of one person or piece of property on Earth getting hit by a piece of that are about one in 3,200.

“I will be the one,” Burnett said, laughing. “You think?  I know.  I will be the one, so everybody just stay away from me.  I am bad luck.”

When UARS hits the upper atmosphere and begins its plunge back to Earth, it will be going at about five miles per second, which is why so much of it will burn up and never hit the Earth. Only 26 components are expected to survive the whole descent, traveling at a moderate velocity of tens to hundreds of miles an hour.  The debris will spread out over 400 to 500 miles.

All these 26 have been identified as potentially causing damage if they hit a structure or a person, but the odds of that are very, very, low.

The odds of any building, or one person out of the seven billion people on the planet being struck by one of these 26 pieces, are about one in 3,200. But the odds of your house, car or you being hit by a piece of the UARS satellite are drastically less – one in 21 trillion.

 

 

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