Chinese space station set to crash-land on Earth's surface within months

Lester Mason
October 13, 2017

Tiangong-1 was seen as a scientific project that would turn China into a "space superpower". Tiangong-1 was visited three times by Chinese spacecraft during its operational life including two manned missions.

About a year ago, Chinese officials confirmed that they'd lost control of their Tiangong-1 space station, and that it would re-enter the Earth's atmosphere in late 2017.

The space station's orbit has been decaying steadily since losing contact and in recent times it has reached into dense parts of the Earth's atmosphere and has started falling faster.

The space agency has already updated the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs on its demise, with the almost nine tonne space station expected to largely burn up in Earth's atmosphere.

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist from Harvard University, told The Guardian in an interview published Friday that he anticipated Tiangong-1 to hit Earth's surface sometime between this month and April.


"I expect it will come down a few months from now - late 2017 or early 2018". The chances of anyone getting harmed is remote but still, China informed the United Nations "Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space" in May and has promised that it would keep a check on the craft's descent and inform the United Nations when it is in its last plunge.

China said it would inform United Nations when final dive process began, but according to Atrophysicist McDowell, station will be detected anywhere on Earth, only a few days ahead.

Speaking with The Guardian a year ago, astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell said: "You really can't steer these things". According to conditions of atmosphere, changing location of "one continent to anor" could pass, McDowell said, saying: "We can only find out when Earth's fall will be exactly 6 or 7 hours ahead".

"Not knowing when it's going to come down translates as not knowing where it's going to come down", he says, adding that almost negligible alterations in atmospheric condition can change the landing location from "one continent to the next".

There have been many uncontrolled re-entries of larger spacecraft and none have ever been reported to have caused injuries to people. They broke up over Argentina, scattering debris over the town of Capitán Bermúdez.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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