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A falling satellite catches the popular imagination

The odds that a falling satellite will kill you Friday are probably zero — but maybe not quite.

A dead hulk of a NASA satellite the size of a bus is skimming the top of the atmosphere, and as air molecules bounce off, its orbit is decaying until gravity will finally pull it down as a fiery meteor.

To be specific, 26 large pieces of the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, the heaviest about 330 pounds, are expected to survive all the way and hit the surface. The debris will stretch along a 500-mile path.

At the same time that NASA has been spewing out bland itinerary updates — by Wednesday evening, North America had been ruled out as a crash pad — the event has turned into a bit of a media and pop culture phenomenon. Just about every major news outlet started weighing in on the impending arrival.

NASA has calculated a 1-in-3,200 chance of anyone on Earth being hurt by its satellite’s death plunge.

By Thursday afternoon, NASA had narrowed the time of reentry Friday to between noon and 6 p.m. Eastern time.

—Kenneth Chang, The New York Times

House Republicans hope to regroup on spending bill

WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders struggled Thursday to revise a stopgap spending bill that they hoped to push through in an urgent bid to keep the government in operation and help their party recover from a humiliating political defeat.

Speaker John A. Boehner solicited the views of his colleagues at a closed meeting of the House Republican Conference, where lawmakers expressed frustration at the setback they suffered Wednesday on the bill to provide $3.65 billion in disaster relief for victims of floods, fires, hurricanes and tornadoes.

Even if the House approves the bill, to finance government operations for seven weeks after the start of the fiscal year Oct. 1, it faces potential problems in the Senate, where Democrats want to spend more, without cutting other programs to offset the cost.

Boehner told members of his caucus that the bill defeated Wednesday was the best deal they were going to get. Some of the 48 Republicans who opposed it Wednesday said they would support it, with minor changes, on Thursday.

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who voted for the original bill, said: “If you are a conservative, it just gets worse from here. The Senate wants to spend a lot more.”

If the House made deeper cuts, Republican leaders said, the Senate would promptly send the bill back with much higher spending.

Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., said the new bill would be “very similar” to the one rejected Wednesday by a vote of 230-195.

—Robert Pear, The New York Times