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An Out-of-control Chinese Space Station is Falling Towards The Earth! Should we be Worrying About Tiangong-1?

Scientists speculate that parts of Tiangong-1, weighing as much as 100kg may crash on the Earth’s surface.

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Tiangong-1
Tiangong-1 was used for multiple manned and un-manned space missions before authorities lost control of the Chinese space station (representative image) Wikimedia
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China, October 16, 2017: An out of control Chinese space station, weighing 8.5 tonnes, is falling towards the Earth and will crash land on the surface within a few months, experts say.

The Chinese space laboratory, Tiangong-1, or the ‘Heavenly Palace’ was launched in 2011, symbolic of the hopes of the Chinese ambitions in space. It was also believed to be a stepping stone to establish China as a global ‘space’ superpower.

Tiangong-1 was used for multiple space missions, some of which even included astronauts – the space station was also visited by the first female astronaut from China, Liu Yang, in 2012.

Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell has now revealed that the space station is descending quickly to the earth and will crash on the planet’s surface ‘soon’.

The ‘Out of Control’ Tiangong-1

Scientists had long speculated the strange behavior of Tiangong-1. Finally, in 2016, officials at China’s CNSA space agency had confirmed that they had lost complete manned control of Tiangong-1 and that the space station would now be descending towards the Earth.

According to The Guardian, McDowell was quoted as saying “(we) expect it will come down a few months from now – late 2017 or early 2018.” 

Where Will Tiangong-1 Crash?

At the moment, is practically impossible for scientists and engineers to confirm about the precise landing site as the capsule is completely beyond human control.

Researchers believe the descent is now going to be guided and influenced by the wind.

The industry enthusiast Jonathan McDowell had previously told The Guardian that even a slight change in the atmospheric conditions could push the landing site “from one continent to the next.”

Does The Crash-Landing of Tiangong-1 Pose A Threat To Life?

Tiangong-1 is expected to hit the Earth’s surface is late 2017 or early 2018.

Scientists are also examining the possibility of the debris from the craft causing casualties upon landing. While most of the craft is expected to burn up in the atmosphere, parts weighing as much as 100kg can be expected to crash on the Earth’s surface.

ALSO READ China launched its 1st unmanned Cargo Spacecraft on a mission to dock with the country’s space station

The possibility of the debris from Tiangong-1 falling in populated regions cannot be precisely calculated, however authorities believe that is likely to not happen.

In May this year, China had additionally informed the United Nations “Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space” that the descent of the space craft will be closely monitored and the United Nations will be duly informed when it takes it final plunge.

Tiangong-1 will not be the first to descend from the space with parts of the debris falling on the Earth. Previously,

  • 1979: NASA’s gigantic Skylab space station, weighing 77-tonne uncontrollably shot down to the Earth with large chunks of the craft landing near Perth in Western Australia.
  • 1991: Soviet Union’s Salyut 7 space station, weighing 20-tonne had crashed to the Earth while it was still docked to another spacecraft called Cosmos 1686 and had broken up over Argentina, throwing debris all over the town Capitán Bermúdez.

Tiangong-1 had been launched on 29 September, 2011, as a long-term mission, with an aim to establish a Chinese outpost in space. However, the out of control Chinese space station is now expected to crash land on the Earth ‘soon’.

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SpaceX Delivers AI Robot With Ice Cream And Brown Mice

SpaceX's capsule reached the station three days after launching

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SpaceX Dragon is pictured about 30 meters from the International Space Station before being captured minutes later at its capture point of 10 meters from the station.
SpaceX Dragon is pictured about 30 meters from the International Space Station before being captured minutes later at its capture point of 10 meters from the station. VOA

The International Space Station got its first robot with artificial intelligence Monday, along with some berries, ice cream and identical brown mice.

SpaceX’s capsule reached the station three days after launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Station astronaut Ricky Arnold used a large mechanical arm to grab the Dragon capsule as the spacecraft soared above Quebec, Canada.

The nearly 6,000-pound (2,700-kilogram) delivery includes the round robot Cimon, pronounced Simon. Slightly bigger than a basketball, the AI robot from the German Space Agency is meant to assist German astronaut Alexander Gerst with science experiments. Cimon’s brain will constantly be updated by IBM so its intelligence — and role — keep growing.

There are also genetically identical mice for a study of gut bacteria, and super-caffeinated coffee aboard the Dragon to go with the fresh blueberries and ice cream.

“Looking forward to some really exciting weeks ahead as we unload the science and get started on some great experiments,” Arnold told Mission Control minutes after snaring the Dragon.

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Artificial Intelligence. Pixabay

When informed it was the 30th cargo ship to be captured by the station’s robot arm, Arnold said, “It’s hard to believe … how far we’ve come. It’s quite an accomplishment.”

Most of those visiting vessels have been provided by private U.S. companies hired by NASA to keep the space station well stocked.

Mission Control said it was fitting that the latest capture occurred over Quebec; the station’s robot arm is Canada’s contribution.

Also read: Scientists Track Chinese Space Station as It Falls to Earth

Besides Gerst, the 250-mile-high (400-kilometer-high) lab is home to three Americans and two Russians. (VOA)