Debris falling from a Chinese missile rushes to the ground

Debris falling from a Chinese missile rushes to the ground

A huge mass of space waste is about to return to Earth’s atmosphere without control and threatens to throw debris to a number of cities around the world in the coming days. It is part of the first unit in China New Tianhe Space Station – And no one knows where it will land.

China’s 46,000-pound Long March-5B missile recently launched the country’s first newly installed space station into orbit. After separating the core from the rest of the rocket, it must have followed a predetermined flight path to the perimeter.

But scientists now have little idea where the orbits around the planet will land unexpectedly every 90 minutes, at an average of 17,324 miles per hour. As it flies through the atmosphere and appears to stumble, it slowly loses its altitude.

Its high speed makes it nearly impossible to predict where it will land, but it is expected to make landfall in the coming days.

China is launching the base unit of the Tianhe space station
The Long March-5B Y2 rocket with the base unit of the Tianhe Space Station will take off from the Wenchang spacecraft launch site in Wenchang, Hainan Province, China on April 29, 2021.

VCG / VCG via Getty Images

“The US Space Command is aware of and tracking China’s Long March 5B position in space, but the exact entry point into the Earth’s atmosphere can only be determined within hours of its re-entry, which is expected to happen around May 8th.” Presenter. He said. Angela Webb, US Space Command public affairs, told CBS News.

Starting Tuesday, the 18th Space Control Squadron, which has tracked more than 27,000 man-made objects in space, will be on display. Daily updates about the location of the missile body. Several other agencies also track his movement.

Despite much speculation, no one knows where the wreckage fell. It has the option to land in the United States, Mexico, Central America, South America, Africa, India, China or Australia.

Most likely, it will land in the ocean, which makes up more than 70% of the planet, or in an uninhabited area. However, as one of the largest spacecraft to re-enter unattended, there is still a risk that the debris will end up in an urban area.

But again, the odds are low.

Places of potential return are found along the blue and yellow ground path.

Aerospace Corporation

According to William Harwood of CBS News, “Much of the missile will burn in the atmosphere and it is unlikely that any particular person or community will be infected with the remaining debris.”

But this does not have to happen.

“Why is the Chinese missile falling without control is not clear at all,” Harwood said. “US missiles (and most other missiles) routinely fire their engines to target re-entry operations over the South Pacific to prevent debris from entering populated areas.”

The China National Space Administration has had trouble re-entering in the past. In 2018 Tiangong 1The defunct Chinese space station re-entered out of control and landed somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. In May last year, another Long March-5B missile fell into the atmosphere and finally landed near the west coast of Africa.

The most disturbing return in a populated area was the shuttle Columbia, which entered in February 2003. When a 200,000-pound spacecraft crashed over Texas, a large amount of debris fell to the ground, but there were no casualties.

Likewise, the wreck fell over Western Australia when it re-entered Skylab in 1978, but no injuries were reported.

William Harwood contributed to this report.

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