A Chinese space station by the name of Tiangong-1 is about to fall back on Earth in the month of March next year. It has been speculated that some pieces from the space station might survive the Earth’s atmosphere and fall on the terrestrial ground of the blue planet. However, the space module’s descent from up above has gathered a bit of concern regarding the debris that might rain down from the sky. But there is nothing to worry about and a space station falling down from the sky should be the least of our concern.
This verdict is backed by the fact that spacecraft and satellites fall on Earth in a constant fashion. The vehicles orbiting the lower spaces get hit by small particles present in the Earth’s upper atmosphere which drags them down eventually. Most of the time these falling objects have a small size or are shaped in such a way that they burn up in a safe manner as they re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere.
However, when you take a look at Tiangong-1, the problem associated with the same is rather massive. It was launched in 2011 and served as China’s first ever crewed space station. The meaning of its name roughly translates to “Heavenly Place”. The module carries a weight of around 19,000 pounds with a heavily dense system. It has been estimated that almost 10 to 40 percent of the spacecraft shall make it down the ground and for small satellites, this percentage isn’t much. But for Tiangong-1, this percentage boils down to 2,000 to 8000 pounds of debris.
When it comes to space vehicles of such a massive size, the operators mostly devise a plan to get rid of them safely after their job is done. With spacecraft that carry thrusters, the operators use them to dump it over the ocean. One can also send out another spacecraft to the upper zone of Earth’s atmosphere to dock with the decaying vehicle at plunge it somewhere that is far from Earth’s atmosphere.
With Tiangong-1, the space station wasn’t meant to last beyond 2013. However, China made a decision to extend the lifespan of the same for some more years. In 2016, the space agency confirmed that they have lost contact as well as control of the space station. This meant that the space station is orbiting uncontrollably and the scientists are unable to confirm its trajectory or the exact place it is supposed to fall down.
After the United States Space Surveillance Network started tracking it along with other nation’s space agencies, it has been confirmed that the space station would fall between 43 degrees North and 43 degrees South latitude. This extent might seem like a gigantic area but most of this region has is ocean and maximum land area is unpopulated.
The chances of this space debris hitting any person are very low, which is 1 in 10,000 chances. IADC, which is an international group of state agency, has decided to track this space station as it comes down and following its descent pattern shall allow the researchers to better their future models. The agency shall only be able to pinpoint the exact path of its entry three hours before it happens. This means you won’t be receiving any warning for the same. The exact location of this drop down is still unknown until it actually happens.
How to keep an eye on the voyage?
The sky gathers can keep an eye on the Tiangong 1 with naked eyes. As one will be easily able to identify the crashing Chinese space station and a flying aeroplane. Unlike aircrafts, satellites look like an unblinking white light gliding swiftly across the sky.
It is expected that the people living in Southern and Nothern Hemispherical regions will be the luckiest to view the satellite, but it also depends on the date. As these days until November starts, it the Southern skywatchers will have a higher probability to snap the space stations. While after that it will roam around Northern Hemispherical region. It should be also noted that viewers above 60 degrees latitude will be out of luck, as the station will never rise above your local horizon.
The Replacement: Tiangong 2
The primary objective of space missions is achieved through imaging which is ensured through the integration of competent and avant-garde imaging equipment such as sensors, cameras, and imagers. These tools help in capturing the images of unexplored entities in the space alongside assisting in the supervision of activities related to spacecraft and space station such as Ducking. And to carry out such activities and missions with more accuracy, Chinese Space Lab has launched the new and revolutionary Micro-satellite.
China’s tentative space lab Tiangong-2, which is tracking the Earth with two involved astronauts, on Sunday, launched a microsatellite weighing 47kg. This microsatellite is intended to lead proficient orbit control, handle the space tasks autonomously and transmit information at high speeds, with more grounded abilities contrasted and the going with a satellite of the Shenzhou-7 shuttle.
Alongside an infra-red sensor, the satellite is also capable of generating enough power through three solar panels that are embodied in the spacecraft. With these three solar panels, it can adjust its course to click pictures of the lab and probe automatically. Banxing-1, which is the forerunner spacecraft of Banxing-1, finished the same mission for Shenzhou VII in the year 2008 and the new satellite is designed with more intensity, more power. The spacecraft is smaller than its preceding models and has a superior aptitude, said state-run China Daily.
Tiangong-2, placed in an orbit of 393 kilometers above the Earth and it will help in studying fundamental physics, biology, fluid mechanics in microgravity, space science and will monitor Earth from space. In addition, it has the capability to measure the topography of the oceans with very high precision which will enable scientists to study Earth’s gravity field.
Tiangong-2 has another payload named POLAR which is gamma-ray detector. It was developed by the collaboration of three countries — China, Switzerland, and Poland. POLAR will study Gamma Ray Bursts (GRBs), the most energetic event in the universe. According to reports, POLAR will work for two years and will observe a total of 20 GRBs.