Uncontrolled debris from a Chinese rocket could hit Earth as early as Saturday. According to The Aerospace Corporation, a government-funded space research center that tracks debris re-entry from orbit.
China launched a new laboratory module called the Wentian to its Tiangong space station from Hainan Island in the South China Sea earlier this week. The missile carrying the module, the Long March 5B, will make an uncontrolled re-entry.
This isn’t the first time debris from China’s space program has tumbled through the atmosphere with an air of excitement.
In May 2021, the world watched in suspense as it tried to determine the location of the remains of a missile of the same class Carrying the first module for the Tiangong space station would crash.
After days of tense surveillance by scientists and various agencies, including the United States Space Command, The rocket re-entered the atmosphere over the Indian Ocean.
Now there is a replica.
The rocket, China’s largest, measures about 175 feet and weighs 23 tons. according to the Aerospace Corporation. It’s far too early to say exactly where it will fall.
The US Space Command said in a statement that the location of the rocket’s re-entry last year is possible not “be located until within hours of its re-entry”. an agency A spokesman told CNN it has been monitoring the space debris since launch this week.
However, experts emphasize that the risk to people in general and to the United States is extremely low.
“We estimate that basically only 3% of the ground track is over the US,” said Lael Woods, director at The Aerospace Corporation.
In general, space agencies try to control the reentry of rockets over a certain size to ensure they land in a location that poses no threat to humans, according to Marlon Sorge, director of Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies.
If an object has a 1 in 10,000 chance of hitting an area where it could hurt someone, NASA will try to control its re-entry, Sorge told USA TODAY.
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“It’s basically a low-risk thing, but it’s a lot higher than it should be. It’s 10 times higher than our thresholds,” Ted Muelhaupt, a reentry debris expert who works at Aerospace Corporation, told USA TODAY on Wednesday.
“But the fact that we’re having this conversation; The fact that there are people out there following it…watching it…is an unnecessary thing. Even if nothing happens, there’s a price for people being ready if something does happen.”
NASA has in the past censured China’s space agency for allowing uncontrolled re-entry.
“It is clear that China is not upholding responsible standards regarding its space debris,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement following the reentry of last year’s rocket debris.
Contribution: The Associated Press