Science

Biggest Chinese Rocket Just Smashed Down to Earth in an Uncontrolled Fall

Biggest Chinese Rocket Just Smashed Down to Earth in an Uncontrolled Fall”

At 100 feet long and 16 feet wide, it was the largest piece of space debris to fall uncontrolled from low-Earth orbit in almost 30 years.

There was a high likelihood that if the Long March 5B rocket had re-entered the atmosphere about 15 to 20 minutes earlier, some of the debris could have hit the nation's largest city.

Days after its successful launch into the space, a huge chunk of a Chinese rocket has fallen back to the Earth.

Ground-based radars reportedly tracked the Long March 5B rocket body in space and that allowed U.S. military officials charged with monitoring space debris to regularly measure the core stage's decaying orbit.

The descent of the 17.8-tonne piece of the rocket was detected and tracked by a unit of the US Air Force, the 18th Space Control Squadron, which tracks space debris within Earth's orbit.

Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told The Independent that: 'Even in space there's a thin bit of atmosphere left. The rocket's core stage measured around 100 feet (30 meters) long and 16 feet (5 meters) wide, with a mass of approximately 20 metric tons.

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As per McDowell's comments on Twitter "The problem is that it is traveling very fast horizontally through the atmosphere and it's hard to predict when it will finally come down".

CNN reported that the debris passed directly over Los Angeles and Central Park in New York City before landing in the Atlantic Ocean. The Air Force's final prediction was plus or minus half an hour, during which time it went 3/4 of the way around the world.

The rocket body was reportedly more massive than the Chinese Tiangong-1 space station that plummeted back to Earth (presumably landing somewhere in the ocean) in 2018.

Although he did not have access to a detailed model of debris, McDowell estimated that at least the dense components of the rocket engines would have survived. The #CZ5B launched China's test crew capsule on 5 May 2020. The last time a heavier object had an uncontrolled entry was 1991, when the 43-ton (39,000 kg) Salyut-7 Soviet space station reentered the atmosphere over Argentina, McDowell wrote on Twitter.

'Once they reach the lower atmosphere they are traveling relatively slowly, so worst case is they could take out a house'. Nevertheless, he tweeted that the rocket part's fall was unusual: "I've never seen a major reentry pass directly over so many major conurbations!"

A piece of a Chinese rocket launched as an experiment to send humans to the moon in the future has crash-landed in the Atlantic Ocean near the coast of Mauritania.



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