China’s 8.5-Ton Space Station Will Crash Into Earth In March

Posted: Jan 7 2018, 2:32am CST | by , Updated: Jan 7 2018, 3:06am CST, in News | Latest Science News

China’s 8.5-Ton Space Station will Crash into Earth in March
Artist's illustration of China's 8-ton Tiangong-1 space station. Credit:CMSE

China's first space station has been out of control since 2016

Seven years after its launch, China’s out of control space station is nearing a tragic end and is expected to fall down to Earth by the end of March.

The 8.5-ton spacecraft, named Tiangong-1, was China’s first space station. It was launched in September 2011 and officially went out of service in March 2016. Later, China’s space agency also confirmed that they have lost communication links with the station and can no longer control its orbit, meaning that the space station will re-enter Earth's atmosphere completely uncontrolled. That also makes it hard to know where the station or its parts will fall.

While the exact landing location of the space station remains unclear, it is anticipated to crash somewhere between 43 degrees North and 43 degrees South latitudes. When it does re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, it will largely break apart and some of its burning pieces could land on populated areas. However, experts suggest that the potential danger to humans is minimal.

“The worst realistic case is that the Tiangong-1 reenters over a highly populated area, and a few largest chunks hit the ground, with perhaps some minor property damage," said Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "But this has never happened in the 60-year history of reentering space debris. The chances are small."

Tiangong-1 is a part of China's ambitious goal of having its own crewed space station by 2022. China has still Tiangong-2 in space and works on Tiangong-3.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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