Chinese Space Station, Weighing 7000 Kg, Plunging Towards Earth

Tiangong-1 reentry window forecast as of 6 March Credit ESA
Tiangong-1 reentry window forecast as of 6 March Credit ESA
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28 March, 2018

China's decommissioned Tiangong-1 space station is heading back to Earth. In 2016, China announced it had lost contact with Tiangong-1 and could therefore no longer control its direction, making predicting where it will end up hard.

Most of it will burn up on re-entry, but there's always a chance some of it will survive and hit Earth.

But not knowing the components of Tiangong-1 makes estimating the danger more challenging, Swinburne University astronomer Alan Duffy said.

Aerospace Corporation, a federally funded U.S. space-research organization, features a re-entry dashboardon its site, which presents a map of the lab's current position and orbit and predicted time to re-entry. NASA shut down its Space Shuttle Program following the launch of Atlantis in July 2011 and has sent astronauts up to the International Space Station on Russian launches ever since.

ESA stated: "Given the uncontrolled nature of this re-entry event, the zone over which fragments might fall stretches over a curved ellipsoid that is thousands of kilometres in length and tens of kilometres wide".

If you're wondering whether you should spend the next 48 hours building a shelter, experts say the space station will fall between latitudes of 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south.

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The Aerospace Corporation says the probability that a person actually would get struck by this debris is "about one million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot".

"If it happens to be falling in an area where you'll be able to see it, then it should be pretty obvious if you're looking up at the night sky", Parks said.

This space station is China's first. On March 21, 2016 China said it terminated its "data service" with Tiangong-1, allowing it to eventually fall back to Earth.

China's out-of-control space station, Tiangong-1, is getting very close to its expected date of re-entry.

Bigger than a school bus with a mass of 8,500 kilograms (9.4 tons), Tiangong-1 is by no means the biggest humanmade object to come hurtling through the atmosphere. And the density of the upper atmosphere fluctuates from one day to the next, Abraham said, which affects how much drag is exerted on the falling space station. "So just by putting it into space and returning it to Earth, it's still the property of the Chinese". Kristian Zarb Adami, have developed a new system that allows not only the detection of such space debris, but also enables scientists to predict where it will land.


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