Debris from falling Chinese space station could land in southern MI

27 March, 2018, 18:53 | Author: Bertha Harmon
  • Space Stations Rising and Falling title

As the Chinese falling space station Tiangong-1 tumbles toward an inevitable breakup in Earth's atmosphere around Easter weekend (March 30 to April 2), researchers in Germany are keeping a close eye on the station to better predict where and when it will hit.

The space station, which name means "celestial palace" in Chinese, was launched in 2011 and, after completing its scientific missions, was decommissioned in 2016.

Nasa's 85-tonne Skylab space station is the largest spacecraft ever to make an uncontrolled return to Earth. Although most of the lab, which weighs 8.5 metric tons, is expected to burn up as it re-enters the earth's atmosphere, some small fragments could survive.

This window is "highly variable", not ironclad, Space Debris Office representatives stressed in the updated forecast, which was issued March 21.

Once the satellite falls below 200 kilometres above earth, tracking radar in western Europe would pick it up before it reached Italy and allow authorities to sound the alarm, according to this graphic from ASI.

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The space station will fall somewhere between about 43 degrees North and 43 degrees South latitude, according to its orbit.

The Guardian reports in a previous report that several space crafts or space stations have come crashing through the atmosphere to Earth without killing or injuring anyone in the past.

The odds of debris from the lab hitting a human are less than one in 1 trillion.

Only one person in history was hit by space debris falling to Earth.

It assessed that it was most likely for the debris to fall within the extreme edges of the 43 degree bands, leaving the USA, southern Europe and the Balkans as the most densely populated areas which could be hit.

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But two years ago scientists said they had lost control of the space station and would be unable to perform a controlled re-entry.

However, even with this new sophisticated technology, it remains hard to estimate the debris' final landing place with a high degree of accuracy, so the exact moment of the Tiangong-1's descent will only be determined just a few hours before.

Given its status as a prototype, Tiangong-1 just isn't that big for a spacecraft, let alone a space station.

That date will likely be further refined throughout the next few days, but for now, April 1, plus or minus 2 days, is as good as the prediction is going to get.

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