Chinese space station to free fall anywhere on Earth soon; Should you worry?

The reports related to the out of control Tiangong-1 came to limelight in 2016, when the Chinese scientists informed they are disconnected from Taingong-1 and do not know where the space module is hovering in space.

As it was previously predicted by the scientists, the Chinese Space Station named Tiangong-1 will be crashing into earth in the March end or early April. As per the scientists, the out of control Tiangong-1 or the “Heavenly Palace” space station will soon fall to earth within a month. The Tiangong-1 which weighs around 8.5 ton is not expected to completely burn up in the atmosphere and will break into pieces instead before crashing into Earth.

Recently, on Tuesday, the European Space Agency (ESA) revealed that the Chinese space module is expected to make an uncontrolled re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere roughly between March 29 and April 9. The ESA further informed that it is unable to exactly figure out when and where the Tiangong-1 will burn up and how much broken pieces will be reaching the surface of the Earth.

According to ESA, the Tiangong-1 can be easily tracked and it can be revealed about a day in advance that which regions on Earth will be able to see the burning Chinese Space Station. But the space agency said that it is difficult to precisely predict the exact location of the impact of the out of control space station. ESA’s Daniel Scuka wrote that said, “Even 7 hours before the actual re-entry, the uncertainty on the break-up location is a full orbital revolution meaning plus or minus thousands of kilometers.

Jay Melosh, a professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences at Purdue University said that the orbit of Tiangong-1 spans from 43 degrees north to 43 degrees south that means from the central United States down to the southern point of Australia. According to Melosh, the space station can fall anywhere between the two regions and there is more chance of it being crashing at either extremes. Melosh said that the space station is like a pendulum and it spends more time at the limits of its swing than when it is moving fast.

Many scientists say that the space station will likely hit the northern US states. But Melosh believes that space station can hit any place that is around 43 degrees north or south of Equator. Melosh said, “In terms of where it will land, a few hours of uncertainty spans a lot of territory.” On October 1, 2011, Tiangong-1 was launched aboard a Long March rocket from the Gobi Desert. But in September 2016, the Chinese space agency informed that they have lost control over the space module and later they updated that out of control Tiangong-1 would crash into Earth in late 2017 or most probably early 2018.

But a top Chinese engineer is claiming that the out of control space lab will not crash into Earth and pose no safety or environmental threat. Zhu Congpeng, a top engineer at the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, quoted as saying to the state-backed Science and Technology Daily newspaper that the alleged out of control Tiangong-1 is not actually out of control. He said that the space lab is not going to crash into our Earth and will not harm anybody.

According to him, their team has been continuously monitoring Tiangong-1, and they are hopeful of allowing it to fall back to earth within the first half of the year. So, basically, he is indicating that although the Chinese space lab will fall back into the earth, it will not complete crash into Earth’s surface rather only some of its wreckages might touch the ground or fall on the sea. Congpeng said to the newspaper that Tiangong-1 would burn up on entering the earth’s atmosphere and the remaining wreckages would fall into a designated area of the sea, without endangering the surface. Here the specific area that Congpeng is talking about for the falling of the wreckage is called as “Point Nemo”. Point Nemo, also called satellite graveyard, is a remote location situated in the South Pacific Ocean.

The reports related to the out of control Tiangong-1 came to limelight in 2016, when the Chinese scientists informed they are disconnected from Taingong-1 and do not know where the space module is hovering in space. They predicted that space module would re-enter into the earth’s atmosphere in late 2017 or early 2018. But according to the newspaper, the re-entry of Tiangong-1 was deliberately delayed so as to allow it to fall into an area of the South Pacific Ocean that is the Point Nemo, where debris from US and Russian space stations had previously landed. Tiangong-1 was originally scheduled to be decommissioned in 2013, but the Chinese space agency kept on extending the mission. Their main aim of launching Tiangong-1 was to establish a long-term Chinese space station in the orbit.

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Kanishk Singh

Kanishk Singh, co-founder, and editor-in-chief at The TeCake, has forayed in the Science and Space for over five years, he enjoys his stint as an editor of several local magazines. He has written several editorials and high-level documentations.

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