Disabled US spy satellite threatens Earth

A large US spy satellite has lost power and could hit the Earth in late February or early March, government officials, quoted by an Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report said the satellite, which no longer can be controlled, could contain hazardous materials, and it is unknown where on the planet it might come down, according to officials.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the information is classified as secret. It was not clear how long ago the satellite lost power, or under what circumstances.

'Appropriate government agencies are monitoring the situation,' Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council, was quoted by the report as saying. 'Numerous satellites over the years have come out of orbit and fallen harmlessly. We are looking at potential options to mitigate any possible damage this satellite may cause.'

He would not comment on whether it is possible for the satellite to perhaps be shot down by a missile. He said it would be inappropriate to discuss any specifics at this time, the report said.

A senior government official said that lawmakers and other nations are being kept apprised of the situation, the it added.

The largest uncontrolled re-entry by a NASA spacecraft was Skylab, the 78-ton abandoned space station that fell from orbit in 1979. Its debris dropped harmlessly into the Indian Ocean and across a remote section of western Australia, the Associated Press report further said.