Published: Tue, April 03, 2018
Sci-tech | By Lila Blake

'Out of control' space lab to become celestial fireball tomorrow, says China

'Out of control' space lab to become celestial fireball tomorrow, says China

China now operates the Tiangong 2 precursor space station facility, while the permanent station's 20-ton core module is due to be launched this year. In September 2016, the Tiangong-2 space lab was successfully launched and put into orbit.

The Chinese state-run news agency, Xinhua, says, "There is no need for people to worry about its re-entry into the atmosphere".

But experts say the likelihood you'll be hit by a piece of the 18,700-pound Tiangong-1 station is extremely remote - less than one in a trillion.

The space station is expected to fall somewhere between the latitudes of 42.7 degrees north and 42.7 degrees south, a range that empresses the border of South Dakota and Nebraska in the north and Tasmania in the south.

Scorching fragments from the 7-year-old space lab are projected to strike a massive swath of the world - except for Canada, Russia and the northern reaches of Europe.

ESA, which has a department specialising in space debris, recalled that at first the space ship's controlled re-entry into Earth's atmosphere was planned once its useful life was over, but Tiangong-1, which was launched in 2011, stopped functioning in March 2016.

Ren Guoqiang, China's defense ministry spokesman, told reporters Thursday that Beijing has been briefing the United Nations and the worldwide community about Tiangong 1′s re-entry through multiple channels.

Normally, a controlled entry means scientists can ensure the burn-up happens over the ocean, so that any large remaining parts of debris fall into the water.

America's 77-ton Skylab crashed through the atmosphere in 1979, spreading pieces of wreckage near the southwestern Australia city of Perth, which fined the United States $400 for littering. Chinese taikonauts - including the nation's first female astronaut, Liu Yang - twice visited the outpost, in 2012 and 2013.

China's own space program raised major concerns after it used a missile to destroy an out-of-service Chinese satellite in 2007, creating a large and potentially unsafe cloud of debris.

"It's that interaction with the outermost part of the atmosphere of the Earth that is going to trigger it to finally come down", said Perlman.

Experts have downplayed any concerns about the Tiangong-1 causing any damage when it hurtles back to Earth, with the ESA noting that almost 6,000 uncontrolled re-entries of large objects have occurred over the past 60 years without harming anyone.

"It might be an orbit later, and then the whole window changes", Perlman said of the predictions available Friday afternoon.

It also plans to send a manned mission to the moon in the future.

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