Published: Tue, April 03, 2018
Research | By Dana Schwartz

'Out of control' Chinese space lab to meet fiery end within hours

'Out of control' Chinese space lab to meet fiery end within hours

The European Space Agency's forecast for Tiangong-1's reentry date has also narrowed to April 1, 2018 (Eastern Daylight Time).

Its re-entry into the atmosphere, therefore, will not be controlled and according to the latest calculations, it could occur between the latitudes of 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south, which includes a large part of the planet.

How big is it - and will it hit me?

However, it is larger than most man-made debris re-entering the Earth's atmosphere.

Markus Dolensky, technical director of the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research in Australia, said witnesses to the Tiangong-1 descent should see "series of fireballs" streaking across the sky - provided there were no clouds.

Worldwide space authorities say it is unlikely to cause any damage and it should have already disintegrated by the time it nears earth, reports Daily Mail.

Weighing less than 8.7 tonnes, it is much smaller than other objects that have entered the atmosphere in an uncontrolled way in the history of space flights.

However, it's thought the spacecraft may contain a highly toxic substance called hydrazine that might survive re-entry - so any debris found should not be approached or touched.

China has never admitted such a thing, but experts don't believe it.

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An out-of-control, school bus-sized Chinese space station could plunge through the atmosphere as soon as Saturday night, potentially raining debris on parts of the United States. Scientists took this to mean it had stopped working.

Ren Guoqiang, China's defense ministry spokesman, told reporters Thursday that Beijing has been briefing the United Nations and the worldwide community about Tiangong 1′s re-entry through multiple channels.

There is "no need for people to worry", the China Manned Space Engineering Office said earlier on its WeChat social media account.

As late as this year a top Chinese engineer claimed that the spacecraft was not out of control. Nevertheless, Aerospace Corp. says a clearer path of re-entry will be determined hours before it makes contact with the ground.

The odds of being struck by a space debris are one in 1.2trillion.

The uncontrolled re-entry of the space lab has been a blot on China's space program, as it goes against global best practice.

Tiangong-1 - or "Heavenly Palace" - was placed in orbit in September 2011, an important step in China's efforts towards building its own space station.

Since China conducted its first crewed mission in 2003 - becoming only the third country after Russian Federation and the do so - it has taken on increasingly ambitious projects, including staging a spacewalk and landing its Jade Rabbit rover on the moon.

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