Bye, bye, Humanity Star. We hardly knew you.
On Thursday, Rocket Lab’s Humanity Star satellite — effectively a disco ball flying through a low orbit around Earth — re-entered Earth’s atmosphere, burning up in the process.
According to U.S. Strategic Command, the satellite, which was designed to occasionally flash, becoming the brightest object in the night sky, de-orbited at about 9:30 a.m. ET.
The Humanity Star’s life was short.
The satellite was launched as a secret payload aboard one of Rocket Lab’s Electron launchers in January. It was initially expected to orbit the planet for about 9 months, but it didn’t quite pan out that way.
“We always anticipated the Humanity Star would deorbit quickly and set 9 months as a maximum lifespan,” Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said. “We knew it would experience a lot of drag and come down quickly as it’s a relatively large, hollow low mass object.” (Props to The Atlantic for first spotting that the Humanity Star’s re-entry was imminent.)
Even though the Humanity Star art project — which was launched in order to help people all over the world look up and marvel at the universe for a moment — was short-lived, it was still a success, according Beck.
“Thousands of people told us they went outside with friends and loved ones to experience it together, and that’s hugely encouraging to me,” Beck said in a statement.
“While the Humanity Star was a brief moment in human history, I hope the conversations and ideas it sparked around the world will continue to be explored. These are the conversations that will play a part in shaping how we collectively manage our planet and work together to solve the challenges facing us all.”
Not everyone was happy about the Humanity Star, however.
The announcement of the short-lived satellite’s launch was met with dismay and annoyance by astronomers around the world.
Anything that’s bright and launched into space could potentially mess up astronomical observations. For example, if a bright satellite like the Humanity Star crosses in front of a ground-based telescope as an astronomer is using it, the satellite could interfere with those observations.
“I liked it when disco died the first time,” astronomer Andy Howell said on Twitter. “Now we get to see it again! I’m gonna put on Disco Inferno to celebrate.”
Rocket Lab isn’t planning on launching another Humanity Star anytime soon, according to Beck.
“There are no plans to put another one up,” Beck said. “It was designed to be a short lived, one-off project.”
For their sake, plenty of astronomers are probably hoping that’s true.