Remains of a massive Chinese missile that went down uncontrollably Back to Earth, it reentered the atmosphere at about 12:45 p.m. ET Saturday over the Indian Ocean, according to the US Space Command said on twitter.
China’s 23-ton Long March 5B rocket, carrying a new module to its space station, lifted off from Hainan Island at 2:22 p.m. local time on Sunday, July 24, and the module successfully docked with China’s orbital outpost . The rocket has since been in an uncontrolled descent towards Earth’s atmosphere – this was the third time China has was charged improper handling of space debris from its rocket stage.
“No other country leaves these 20-ton things in orbit to re-enter uncontrolled,” Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told CNN’s Jim Acosta on Saturday afternoon.
In a Saturday statement on Twitter, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson wrote China shared “no specific trajectory information” as the rocket fell back to earth.
“All spacefaring nations should follow established best practices and do their part to share this type of information in advance to enable reliable predictions of the potential risk of debris impact, particularly for heavy-duty vehicles like the Long March 5B, which pose a significant risk Loss of life and property,” Nelson said.
“This is crucial for the responsible use of space and to keep people safe here on Earth,” he added.
In a statement, the China Manned Space Agency said remnants of the rocket reentered the atmosphere around 12:55 a.m. Beijing time on Sunday — or around 12:55 p.m. ET on Saturday.
The agency added most of the remains burned over the Sulu Sea, which lies between the island of Borneo and the Philippines, during the reentry process.
“What we really want to know is if parts were actually left on the floor,” McDowell told CNN. “It may take a little longer for the reports to be filtered back.”
Videos and photos released online appeared to show several bright objects streaking across the night sky over the city of Kuching in Sarawak, Malaysia. Vanessa Julan, a local resident, shared with CNN a video she took at around 12:50 a.m. local time, which is Beijing time.
On Sunday, Malaysia’s National Space Agency released a statement confirming that “scorched debris” from the Chinese Long March 5B rocket had been discovered. “The missile debris caught fire as it entered Earth’s airspace, and the movement of the flaming debris also crossed Malaysian airspace and was detected in several areas, including airspace around Sarawak state,” the agency said.