China's Tiangong-1 space lab plummets to Earth, breaks up over Pacific

03 April, 2018, 06:25 | Author: Courtney Reynolds
  • Tiangong-1 reentry updates | Rocket Science - ESA's blogs

Chinas Tiangong-1 space station, which is falling towards earth, was reported to have been 179 km outside the earths atmosphere by Sunday noon (local time), China Manned Space Agency was quoted as saying by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.

The agency said calmer space weather was now expected as a high-speed stream of solar particles did not cause an increase in the density of the upper atmosphere, as previously expected. New figures crunched by the European Space Agency (ESA) now put the likely descent sometime on Monday.

Aerospace Corp. has released a fact sheet that states the chances of being struck by debris from Tiangong-1 are less than 1 in a trillion.

The chances of Tiangong-1's re-entry are slightly higher in New Zealand, Tasmania, the northern states of the USA, northern China, the Middle East, central Italy, northern Spain, and parts of South America and southern Africa.

It's been hard to predict the precise moment when Tiangong-1 will re-enter Earth's atmosphere, and where it will break up into pieces before it lands.

Mr McDowell has also pointed out that if part of the space station lands in your garden "it's not yours, it's still China's".

It is believed that each year around 1,000 large objects fall back to Earth from space.

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ESA, which has a department specialising in space debris, recalled that at first the space ship's controlled re-entry into Earth's atmosphere was planned once its useful life was over, but Tiangong-1, which was launched in 2011, stopped functioning in March 2016. China's chief space laboratory designer, Zhu Zongpeng, has denied Tiangong was out of control, but hasn't provided specifics on what, if anything, China was doing to guide the craft's return to Earth.

Most famously, America's 77-ton Skylab crashed through the atmosphere in 1979, spreading pieces of wreckage near the southwestern Australia city of Perth, which fined the USA $400 for littering. The rest is expected to burn up on re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.

There is "no need for people to worry", the China Manned Space Engineering Office said earlier on its WeChat social media account.

The station, whose name translates as "Heavenly Palace", played host to two crewed missions that included China's first female astronauts and served as a test platform for perfecting docking procedures and other operations.

China inexplicably lost contact with Tiangong 1 in 2016, three years after crews abandoned the lab.

An out-of-control, school bus-sized Chinese space station could plunge through the atmosphere as soon as Saturday night, potentially raining debris on parts of the United States.

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