“It’s as big as a house and coming right at us!” exclaimed a journalist when the used-up Skylab fell out of orbit and crashed to earth back in 1979. Well it’s dejavu all over again. The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) is due to fall from orbit any minute now, if it hasn’t already. The relatively mundane event has morphed into a hi-tech, space age spectator sport.
This one’s as big as a bus! After all this noise I wondered where the thing was, and how well Google and Bing were tracking the bus-sized piece of space junk. I searched on “Tracking Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS)” in Google and saw 64,100 results (9/22-1:45pmEST), but an astounding 1.15 million in Bing. Huh? What the heck is going on here? Surely there aren’t over a million sites that allow me to track UARS.
I narrowed my search to “websites tracking UARS” and the search engine results were much more focused. Fox News held the top spot in Google while a Fox affiliate in Chicago was #1 in Bing. Hmm…my search for a tracking site threatened to turn into an SEO research project. Why was Fox News outranking NASA on the subject? And why was MyFoxChicago.com the top result in Bing?
But I was on a mission—finding a site to track the ill-fated satellite. The Chicago Fox News web page featured a link to a NASA URL. Argh! It took me to a page with nothing but text snippets updating location and best-guess time of re-entry. Not what I was looking for. The Fox News page had an embedded player allowing you to see where UARS was in orbit. Here we go! It came with a warning of a slow load time and yes, it took forever to load. C’mon people, this is the 21st century. My patience was rewarded as the page finally appeared and featured a link to see where UARS was right now. Yes! 10 minutes after my search began I was headed for the finish line only to be smacked up side the head with the dreaded “Problem Loading Page” alert. Now I’m really getting frustrated, but have to break off my search and get back to work.
By the time you’re reading this UARS made have come to its final resting place. If you know where it crashed, use the latest in hi-tech communication technology (email) to let me know. This real-time internet app thing has a few bugs to be worked out.