Tiangong-1 space station continues its uncontrolled descent towards Earth

27 March, 2018, 18:54 | Author: Kristi Owen
  • Ask the Aerospace Experts: Countdown to Tiangong-1 Reentry

China's first experimental space lab is expected to fall back to Earth between 31 March and 4 April and should burn up in the atmosphere, space authorities said.

Space experts predict the Tiangong-1 space station, or "Heavenly Palace", will turn into a spectacular fireball as it enters Earth's atmosphere sometime during the Easter long weekend.

"I certainly would worry about things like crossing the street far more than debris from Tiangong", said Andrew Abraham, an analyst leading efforts to track and predict the demise of the space station at the Aerospace Corporation.

The European Space Agency is providing re-entry updates every day or two on its blog, including on the lab's potential landing zone, its altitude changes, and the re-entry window, which the agency now puts between March 30 and April 2.

"Launched in 2011, and it was mostly proof of concept - meant to prove that they could have a manned station in orbit", said Alison Klesman of Astronomy Magazine. And sometimes that junk falls back to Earth.

Based on Tiangong-1's orbit, researchers say the space station will reenter the atmosphere between 43 degrees North and 43 degrees South latitude. Its 9.3-ton bulk is just 7 percent the size of the 132.3-ton (120 metric tons) Russian space station Mir, which, according to ESA, became the largest object built by humans to fall out of space back in 2001.

China had planned a controlled re-entry of Tiangong-1 into Earth's atmosphere.

Only one person in history was hit by space debris falling to Earth.

China stopped receiving data from the station in 2016.

One need not worry about death from above - the chances that a piece of Tiangong-1 will hit you are less than one in a trillion, according to an FAQ published by The Aerospace Corporation. They also examined the rotational speed of Tiangong-1.

In 1979, first USA space station, the 74-ton Skylab, fell to Earth and the same year there were two more instances where a Skylab station fell on Earth causing no harm to human life, CNN reported.

That date will likely be further refined throughout the next few days, but for now, April 1, plus or minus 2 days, is as good as the prediction is going to get.

The ASI is one of 13 global space agencies monitoring the satellite as it approaches earth for an uncontrolled crash landing.


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