Out-of-control Chinese space station set to crash land on earth

China's First Experimental Space Lab'The Tiangong to Fall Back to Earth Between March 31 and April 4 Chinese Space Authorities
Space Lab
Author

28 March, 2018

The Italian space agency says there's a slim chance that China's Tiangong-1 space station will hit Italy when it falls out of the sky sometime in the next week.

An uncontrolled Chinese space station weighing at least seven tonnes (around 7,000 kg) is set to break up as it hurtles to Earth on or around April 1, the European Space Agency has forecast.

Since then, Tiangong-1 has gradually been dropping lower and lower as it rubs up against the wisps of the upper atmosphere.

While Skylab is the most famous spacecraft to fall in an uncontrolled fashion back to Earth, there are many others that have attracted attention over the years.

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. Two Chinese woman astronauts also paid visit to the space station, which was launched as unmanned, in 2012 and 2013.

Tiangong-1 or "heavenly place" is China's first space station and it was in fact a key symbol of China's rise through the ranks in world politics.

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The concern is less that surviving pieces of the space station will smash into people and more that the hydrazine will be a problem; this is especially worrisome because, being the curious humans that we are, those who don't know any better will probably go hunting for parts as souvenirs or collectibles. Still, it is impossible to determine where the station, which is now circling the Earth 16 times a day, will come down.

A number of states are likely in the path of an out-of-control Chinese space station headed toward Earth.

If you're wondering whether you should spend the next 48 hours building a shelter, experts say the space station will fall between latitudes of 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south. While the most probable location for debris to fall is into the oceans, any pieces falling on land should be avoided and reported immediately, as they may be contaminated with hydrazine, a highly toxic and corrosive chemical that is used as spacecraft fuel.

"I think it's something like a one in one trillion chance that this is going to hit you, so it's pretty small".

The re-entry of Tiangong-1 into the atmosphere "will be between March 31 and April 4, 2018", according to a statement posted on the website of the China Manned Space Engineering Office. Reports indicated it will most likely burn up in the atmosphere, as a result of atmospheric friction, before reaching Earth's surface, the agency noted.

"You've got a greater probability of getting hit by a vehicle crossing a Sydney road today than you're going to get hit by the Chinese space station".


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