Kosmos 482 is “highly likely” to survive re-entry in one piece as it was built to be hardy enough to withstand Venus’s dense atmosphere.
The Russian technology – which weighs a whopping 500kg – has been circling in orbit around Earth ever since a disastrous launch on March 31, 1972 ruined the project and turned it into useless space debris.
Its eventual demise and return to the surface of our planet has been expected for a long time but previous estimates placed the landing between 2023 and 2025.
Revised analysis from Space.com has now found it may happen in 2019.
It was launched before its sister probe, Venera 8, but became stranded in Earth’s orbit.
Venera 8 successfully completed its landing on our celestial neighbour in July 1972 and became only the second spacecraft to reach the surface.
It transmitted data for 50 minutes and 11 seconds before it succumbed to the 300 g-force and 100 atmospheres of pressure on Venus.
Kosmos 482 was launched by a Soviet booster and successfully made it into an Earth parking orbit before failing to launch onward towards Venus.
At this point it splintered into four different pieces.
Two stayed in orbit but four fell to Earth and landed in the land of a New Zealand farmer.
The balls were 15inches in diameter and were supposed to be returned to their home state but the Soviet Union refused to acknowledge the debris belonged to them.
They inflicted no harm but did scorch holes in crops and were confirmed to have been gas pressure vessels from the Kosmos 482 calamity by later analysis.
“Yes, the descent craft will survive a re-entry with no problems”
“Yes, the descent craft will survive a re-entry with no problems,” said satellite watcher Thomas Dorman of the northeastern Oklahoma community of Zeb, speaking to Space.com.
“It would be funny if it was spotted coming down and the parachute has deployed.
“But I am sure the batteries to fire the pyrotechnics to release the parachute have died long ago!”