Science

China reassures public over debris from falling space station

China reassures public over debris from falling space station”

The Tiangong 1 space lab will serve as a space station module prototype for China, which is the third country (after Russian Federation and the United States) to develop the capability to launch astronauts into space and return them safely to Earth.

The official China Manned Space website reported Thursday that Tiangong-1 was likely to collide with Earth anywhere between Saturday and Monday.

The station was decommissioned back in March 2016 and was spotted to be on a trajectory headed for re-entry into earth since past year. Then the agency released a statement saying the 8-tons space station is expected to make an uncontrolled reentry.

The latest estimate for re-entry is between 30 March and 2 April.

Anyone lucky enough to be looking at the right part of the sky when Tiangong 1 starts its fiery descent will likely see a glowing object moving for several minutes, like a shooting star but slower.

China's chief space laboratory designer Zhu Zongpeng has denied Tiangong was out of control, but hasn't provided specifics on what, if anything, China is doing to guide the craft's re-entry. Most of the debris were satellites and rocket's upper stages. "My estimate is that the probability of being injured by one of these fragments is similar to the probability of being hit by lightning twice in the same year".

China will step up efforts to coordinate with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs as the re-entry nears, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters on Friday.

The breakup on re-entry of the Columbia space shuttle in 2003 killed all seven astronauts and sent more than 80,000 pieces of debris raining down on a large swath of the Southern United States.

China's own space program raised major concerns after it used a missile to destroy an out-of-service Chinese satellite in 2007, creating a large and potentially risky cloud of debris.

The update from Wu seems to confirm speculation that China is no longer in control of the 34-foot-long (10.3 meters) Tiangong-1, which launched in September 2011 to test out docking technologies and other skills that China will need to build its planned space station in the early 2020s. It plans to send a manned mission to the moon in the future.

The station is gradually coming close to Earth.

The station had two modules, one for its solar panels and engines, and one for a pair of astronauts to live in and conduct experiments. It has two sleep station.

China extended the module's service and announced in March 2016 that it was no longer working and would be replaced by the Tiangong-2, launched that same year.

Since China conducted its first crewed mission in 2003 - becoming only the third country after Russian Federation and the USA to do so - it has taken on increasingly ambitious projects, including staging a spacewalk and landing its Jade Rabbit rover on the moon. Informing more about it, Stijn Lemmens, an ESA space debris expert, stated that debris of Tiangong-1 would not lead to any human injury.

China is not part of the multinational consortium, led by the United States and Russian Federation, that operates the 440-ton (400 metric ton) International Space Station.

A mission to land another rover on Mars and bring back samples is set to launch in 2020.



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