Countdown Begins for Chinese Space Station to Plummet to Earth
08 March, 2018, 01:34 | Author: Devin Moran
It has the chances of debris from Tiangong-1 hitting someone at about 1 million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot.
In 2011, China launched the Tiangong-1 space station, an unmanned prototype that was equipped with two sleep stations for astronauts. But, in 2016 the Chinese aerospace agency informed that it has lost the control over the space station and they will not be able to carry out a controlled re-entry.
In 2016, officials from China confirmed that they could no longer maintain control of the space station Tiangong-1, which means "Heavenly Place" in Chinese, and that it would be crashing into the Earth in late 2017 or early 2018.
"In the history of spaceflight no known person has ever been harmed by reentering space debris". In layman terms, the chances of the space station's re-entry are higher in the regions of northern China, the Middle East, central Italy, northern Spain and the northern states of the US, New Zealand, Tasmania, parts of South America and southern Africa.
After the craft lost radio connection with China's Space Agency after being launched in 2011, it began to slip into a lower and lower orbit, and it just started dipping into Earth's atmosphere.
There may be hazardous materials on board the space station when it lands.
That tells you that even though the retired space station is practically skimming the atmosphere, its ground track hasn't yet been impacted - and until that happens, there's no way to tell where it's going to hit. Its perigee - the nearest part of its orbit - has been getting steadily closer to Earth and is now thought to be at an altitude of around 240km.
Aerospace, a research organisation that advises government and private enterprise on space flight, in a statement said that there was "a chance that a small amount of debris" from the module will survive re-entry and hit Earth.
The Aerospace Corporation warns that it may be carrying a toxic and corrosive rocket fuel called hydrazine and has cautioned people not to touch or go near any debris they might discover, which may emit carcinogenic vapours. It is expected that Tiangong-1's re-entry will be longer (and more dazzling) due to its greater size. The constantly changing "weather" in space makes it hard to predict when the space station would crash-land on Earth. Variations in the density of the upper layers of the atmosphere, along with the craft's orientation, physical composition, speed and location make it a finicky business.
Tiangong-1 is not the biggest object we've had back.
Besides Tiangong-1, there have been other crash-landings, such as NASA's 77-tonne Skylab in 1979 and the Soviet Union's 20-tonne Salyut 7 space station in 1991. The space station with spacecraft scattered over Argentina.
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