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Scientists Track Chinese Space Station as It Falls to Earth

Tiangong-1 was launched into orbit in 2011 as China’s first space lab

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Visitors sit besides a model of Chinese made Tiangong 1 space station at the 8th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, known as Airshow China 2010, in Zhuhai city, south China, Guangdong province. VOA
Visitors sit besides a model of Chinese made Tiangong 1 space station at the 8th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, known as Airshow China 2010, in Zhuhai city, south China, Guangdong province. VOA
  • Scientists track the Chinese Space Station
  • It will fall on Earth soon
  • Scientists are trying to locate the exact location where it will fall

Scientists are monitoring a defunct Chinese space station that is expected to fall to Earth around the end of the month, the largest manmade object to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere in a decade.

The head of the European Space Agency’s debris office, Holger Krag, says China’s Tiangong-1 space station will likely fall to Earth between March 30 and April 3.

Krag said it still not yet known where the space station will hit Earth, but said it would be extremely unlikely for anyone to be injured when it does.

The ISS currently has current six crew members on the orbital laboratory. Wikimedia Commons
The Chinese Space Station can fall on Earth anytime. Wikimedia Commons

Injury unlikely

“Our experience is that for such large objects typically between 20 and 40 percent of the original mass, of 8.5 tons, will survive re-entry and then could be found on the ground, theoretically,” he said.

“However, to be injured by one of these fragments is extremely unlikely. My estimate is that the probability to be injured by one of these fragments is similar to the probability of being hit by lightning twice in the same year,” Krag added.

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

He said the space station is expected to fall between the areas of 43 degrees south and 43 degrees north, and everything outside that zone is considered safe.

“Northern Europe including France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland are definitely on the safe side. Southern Europe, the southern part of North America, South Asia, Africa, Australia and also South America are still within the zone today,” he said.

Where will it hit?

Tiangong-1
Tiangong-1 was used for multiple manned and un-manned space missions before authorities lost control of the Chinese space station. Wikimedia ommons

Scientists say it is hard to predict where Tiangong-1 will hit Earth in part because of its low orbit and high velocity. They say the space station is travelling 17,400 mph and orbits Earth about every 90 minutes.

Tiangong-1 was launched into orbit in 2011 as China’s first space lab. It carried out orbit experiments in preparation for China’s plan to put a permanent space station into orbit by 2023. VOA

Next Story

US Warships Pass Through Taiwan Strait, China Rebukes

Beijing views any ships passing through the strait as essentially breaching its sovereignty

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US Warships, Taiwan Strait
The ships' transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. Pixabay

China said Thursday it had lodged a protest with Washington after two US warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait amid rising tensions between the two powers.

The US Navy said the USS Preble, a destroyer, and USNS Walter S. Diehl, a supply ship, conducted a routine transit “in accordance with international law” on Wednesday.

“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the navy said. “The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

US warships periodically conduct “freedom of navigation” exercises in the narrow waterway separating the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, triggering angry responses from Beijing every time.

US Warships, Taiwan Strait

China said Thursday it had lodged a protest with Washington after two US warships sailed. Pixabay

Beijing views any ships passing through the strait as essentially breaching its sovereignty, while the US and many other nations view the route as international waters open to all.

“We have lodged solemn representations with the US,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a regular press briefing.

The sail-by comes on top of tensions between the United States and China over trade and US efforts to thwart Chinese telecom giant Huawei over security concerns.

The transit also comes as the US, Japan, South Korea and Australia kicked off operation “Pacific Vanguard” near Guam, bringing together more than 3,000 sailors from the four countries.

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Drills will focus on “live fire exercises, defensive counter-air operations, anti-submarine warfare, and replenishment at sea,” the US 7th Fleet said.

In April, Beijing said its navy warned off a French warship that had entered the Taiwan Strait and lodged an official complaint with Paris.

China sees Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunified, despite the two sides being ruled separately since the end of a civil war on the mainland in 1949.

The US diplomatically recognizes China over Taiwan, but remains the island’s chief military ally and arms supplier.

US Warships, Taiwan Strait
China sees Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunified. VOA

For the Guam naval drills, Australia has contributed two frigates, Japan two destroyers and South Korea one destroyer. The USS Blue Ridge, the 7th Fleet’s flagship, will lead the operation from the US side.

Home to more than 160,000 people, Guam was at the center of nuclear tensions between Washington and Pyongyang in 2017, with North Korea threatening to hit the US territory with “enveloping fire.” (VOA)