Friday, 27 April, 2018

Earthlings Beware: China's Space Station Will Crash Back to Earth on Easter

Tiangong-1 altitude decay forecast as of 6 March Credit ESA Tiangong-1 altitude decay forecast as of 6 March Credit ESA
Sherry Houston | 27 March, 2018, 18:50

The European Space Agency (ESA) predicted the re-entry period for the Tiangong-1 craft would be from Friday, March 30 to Monday, April 2.

Last year, China came forward and admitted that it had completely lost control of the Tiangong-1 spacecraft, whose name means "Heavenly Palace", and could no longer communicate with the space station whatsoever.

Dr Wu, a space engineer, explained that if there was no signal link between the space station and ground control then engineers had no ability to direct where the satellite would land.

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.

Most of the station is likely to burn up in the atmosphere but debris could hit Earth.

In the past, there have been several crash landings of space stations, including NASA's 77-tonne Skylab in 1979 and the Soviet Union's 20-tonne Salyut 7 space station in 1991, but there haven't been any casualties.

"In the history of spaceflight, no casualties due to falling space debris have ever been confirmed".

One of the largest Chinese spacecrafts in orbit could crash back down to Earth as early as Saturday, authorities said on Monday. Blue areas have zero probability of debris reentry since Tiangong-1 does not fly over these areas (north of 42.7° N latitude or south of 42.7° S latitude).

It is possible that some pieces of the station survive reentry and impact the surface of the planet, though it is highly unlikely that anyone is struck by debris.

According to space debris experts, the chances that you will be hit by of a chunk of space metal are essentially zero. McDowell says that might look like what some people saw when a rocket of about Tiangong-1's weight fell near the Peru-Brazil border in January-a fiery, white light in the sky. Using that, the radar images of the Tiangong-1 showed the blazing space station heading towards the Earth. The interest surrounding the free-falling doomed space station is the fact that scientists and researchers truly can't nail down when and where it will enter.

But, it's also worth noting that Tiangong-1 itself is just a fraction of the size of other objects that have fallen (controlled or uncontrolled) to Earth.

But it was able to host astronauts for a few days at a time.

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