China's space station to enter Earth's atmosphere on April 2

Marsha Scott
April 3, 2018

The out-of-control hunk of space junk has been expected to re-enter Earth's atmosphere on Sunday, April Fool's Day, but the most recent predictions show the 9-ton craft's fiery return slipping to later Sunday or perhaps early Monday.

Tiangong-1, known as "Heavenly Palace", was due to have entered the Earth's atmosphere by Sunday afternoon but now may not arrive until Monday morning.

Advancing China's space program is a priority for President Xi Jinping, who has called for Beijing to become a global space power with both advanced civilian space flight and capabilities that strengthen national security.

During the re-entry period for Tiangong-1, you might be able to see streaks in the sky, like a meteor shower, but that depends on several factors.

No one knows for sure.

Boffins are unclear about where parts from the space station will eventually land and many experts even believe most of the debris will burn up during the re-entry.

"It is tumbling", Roger Thompson, a senior engineering specialist with Aerospace Corp., reportedly said.

The Manned Space Agency did not specify a time when it expects the space station to crash into Earth in a statement.

The re-entry window remains "highly variable" and the debris from the lab could land anywhere between the latitudes of 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south - from New Zealand to the American Midwest, the ESA said.

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Scorching fragments from the 7-year-old space lab are projected to strike a massive swath of the world - except for Canada, Russia and the northern reaches of Europe.

Only about 10 per cent of the bus-sized, 8.5-ton spacecraft will likely survive being burned up on re-entry, mainly its heavier components such as its engines.

No visitors arrived at Tiangong-1 after that second crew, but the station was still used to gather data and observe Earth's surface, monitoring ocean and forest use, according to Space.com.

The 9.4-ton, school bus-size space lab is tumbling, making it almost impossible for analysts to determine the effects atmospheric drag has on its trajectory. "The reentry of Tiangong-1 brings some awareness to this long ignored problem of space debris".

It may seem a little insane, but burning up in the atmosphere is just a part of the natural life cycle of large spacecraft.

"What I've heard is the possibility of large amounts of debris falling to the ground is very slim".

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 US $400 for littering.

"Most parts were burned up in the re-entry process", it added. Expected to come crashing back to earth on April 1st sometime during the midday hours. There was no immediate update on whether any of the space station's debris landed on any populated areas.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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