Officials say Chinese space station expected to crash to earth soon

28 March 2018, 12:33 | Shawn Tate

Several US states in potential path of falling Chinese space station

Any pieces of Tiangong-1

Space experts predict the Tiangong-1 space station, or "Heavenly Palace", will turn into a spectacular fireball as it enters Earth's atmosphere sometime during the Easter long weekend. But no one knows for sure.

China's 8.5-ton space station will come crashing down to Earth from Saturday onwards, the country's space authorities said, although they cannot confirm where it is likely to hit. Along with its successor - the Tiangong-2, which launched in 2016 - it was a prototype for China's ultimate space goal: a permanent, 20-ton space station that is expected to launch around 2022.

The approximate re-entry location can not be decided until the last two hours before it starts to fall based on worldwide precedents, he said. "There's still a fair amount of uncertainty". "For your safety, do not touch any debris you may find on the ground nor inhale vapors it may emit".

The lab completed its main missions following Shenzhou-10s return in June 2013.

China originally planned to use the thrusters to guide Tiangong-1 to splash harmlessly into an ocean. Although the Chinese government has yet to confirm whether the reentry will be uncontrolled, worldwide observers believe it has been orbiting uncontrolled since at least June 2016, so it's doubtful China has any influence over where it will reenter. As it draws nearer, it bumps into more and more air molecules, which slow the station and close its orbit to decay even more precipitously.

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Tiangong-1 was still over 200 km above Earth's surface on March 26, 2018, but its orbit is predicted to decay very quickly in the days ahead.

The European Space Agency says that there have never been any confirmed casualties due to falling space debris. It will be impossible to narrow down the location until a couple of hours prior to reentry.

A report by The Aerospace Corporation does highlight specific regions of the world that are more likely to see Tiangong-1's fiery demise, though.

The Aerospace Corporation says the probability that a person actually would get struck by this debris is "about one million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot".

Most of it will burn up on re-entry, but there's always a chance some of it will survive and hit Earth. A woman named Lottie Williams was hit on her shoulder in 1997 by parts of what was believed to a Delta II rocket while walking through a park though she was not injured and the incident can be considered as the rarest of the rare.



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