China's Space Station is Falling to Earth

Audrey Hill
March 28, 2018

The Aerospace Corporation invites you to a media event in our Crystal City, Va., office in advance of the impending reentry of China's first space station, now projected to make a fiery descent into Earth's atmosphere in early April.

It is not now confirmed whether notoriously secretive China has been able to maintain or re-establish links with Tiangong-1, which would let them fire engines at the last minute to avoid land collisions.

"It will mostly burn up due to the extreme heat generated by its high-speed passage through the atmosphere", it said in a statement. This drag force depends in part upon Tiangong-1's position and whether the station is tumbling, which is hard to know for sure. Its uncontrolled fall to Earth shares some similarities with the end of the Skylab space station in 1979; some of Skylab's pieces rained down on rural Australia.

The fact that Beijing also lies in Tiangong-1's "hit belt" has prompted some space aficionados to wish the "rogue" space lab, now running wild at an average height of 216.2 kilometers, heads straight back to the Chinese capital, rather than anywhere else, on its "homecoming trip".

The China National Space Administration launched Tiangong-1 in 2011, but lost command of it in 2016, which has led to a lot of uncertainty about its re-entry and whether pieces of it might reach the ground.

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This map from the European Space Agency shows the potential re-entry areas for China's Tiangong-1 space station. However, the space station will re-enter somewhere between the latitudes of 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south, based on its current orbital inclination.

"The best case-and most likely case-is that it will come down over water some place and never be seen again", says Ailor.

Don't worry. According to space debris experts, the chances that you personally will be hit by of a chunk of space metal are essentially zero - less than one in a trillion.

The Tiangong-One, or the "Heavenly Palace", is a 34-foot-long structure that weighs 9.4 tons. After that it was just a matter of time before it came crashing down.

For argument's sake, and you do become the unluckiest person on the planet to suffer injury or loss because of falling space junk from Tiangong-1, those same space treaties mean you would have some cause for complaint. Kristian Zarb Adami, have developed a new system that allows not only the detection of such space debris, but also enables scientists to predict where it will land.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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