Science

Out-of-control Chinese space station to crash-land on Earth within weeks

Out-of-control Chinese space station to crash-land on Earth within weeks”

China's first attempt of space station has gone out of control and is expected to crash back into the Earth's surface in few weeks.

The Aerospace Corporation, a California-based non-profit research and development organization, predicted the 8.5-ton space station will collide into the earth's atmosphere in the first week of April, with the error of margin at a week on either side.

Generally, space station and satellites need little push to stay in its assigned orbit and altitude. In 2016, China admitted that the agency has lost control over the module which is now hurtling down to the Earth and that, it won't be able to do a controlled re-entry. Speaking to Newsweek, he advised that the Tiangong-1 re-entering Earth's atmosphere is "not something we should be concerned about".

Most pieces of space junk burn up on re-entry, but because of its size, pieces of Tiangong-1 might reach the ground. According to the map designed after tracking its location, the space station is expected to fall between 43-degrees north and 43-degrees south latitudes which makes regions of northern Spain, Middle East, northern China, Central Italy, Tasmania, New Zealand, northern US, southern Africa and regions of South America potential crashing sites. In a statement, The Aerospace Corporation said: "There is a chance that a small amount of debris from the module will survive reentry and impact the ground".

Aerospace warned that the Chinese space station might be carrying a highly toxic and corrosive fuel called hydrazine on board.

"When considering the worst-case location... the probability that a specific person (i.e., you) will be struck by Tiangong-1 debris is about one million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot", it added.

"No one has ever been hurt by a piece of debris landing from space".

According to an astrophysicist from Harvard University, Jonathan McDowell, Tiangong-1 is falling by about 6km a week, faster than its recorded speed at 1.5km in October.

Is there a threat to life from Tiangong-1's crash-landing?

He said that it will only be possible to examine the location of the crash in the final week of re-entry.

Tiangong was launched by China as part of a plan to show off its position as a global superpower. The space station conducted a number of manned and unmanned missions until it finally lost contact with the ground control previous year.

It was used for both manned and unmanned missions and visited by China's first female astronaut, Liu Yang, in 2012.

In 1991 the Soviet Union's 20-tonne Salyut 7 space station crashed to Earth while still docked to another 20-tonne spacecraft called Cosmos 1686. Although much of the space station was destroyed, pieces of debris which survived the incident spread across the town of Capitan Bermudez. As the agency is not able to control it, for now, it is hard to say where the massive space station will crash.



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