According to the European Space Agency, the first Chinese space station Tiangong 1 will be re-entering Earth’s atmosphere sometime between March 30 and April 2. With the space station dropping out of orbit and coming into Earth anytime next week, it is expected that the anxiety caused by the descending spacecraft will now end, according to EU space officials most probably in April Fool’s day.
The 19000-lb (8500 kg) space station has been controversial in recent months due to the fact that China no longer has any control over its engines, meaning that its landing zone could remain unpredictable until it finally takes an evident route on its way back to Earth. What makes it more concerning is its high density and weight.
Due to its high dimensions, the Tiangong 1 is an object that cannot be fully incinerated on its journey back to Earth, meaning that many fragments won’t be significantly harmed or reduced causing the station to split and be sparse when reentering the atmosphere. This could prompt the one in a million chances of hitting someone and killing them instantly, which has been the main subject of much anxiety.
#Tiangong1 forecast for 27 March from ESA's Space Debris Office: The current estimated reentry window runs from the morning of 31 March to the early morning of 2 April (in UTC time); this is highly variable https://t.co/vaovwQZBoy pic.twitter.com/Hk5pANGEGG
— ESA Operations (@esaoperations) March 27, 2018
Tiangong 1 falling down was China’s mistake
China’s launch was not intended to last beyond 2013 until the country decided to extend its space tour, which triggered criticism from many scientists given the fact that once a space station has a set lifespan this should be respected to prevent difficult situations. This happened to China in 2016 when it was reported that Tiangong 1 was out of control.
This part of the Chinese space station project will reenter the Earth’s atmosphere over Easter. The rest of this nice model already returned safely (crew and capsule) or burnt up or crashed a while ago (rocket stages and service module) #Tiangong1 pic.twitter.com/oGG9qo81cI
— Remco Timmermans (@timmermansr) March 27, 2018
What are the chances of being hit by Tiangong 1 debris?
According to scientists and experts, it is very unlikely to be hit by space junk, and the fall of Tiangong 1 next week won’t significantly increase these odds. However, regardless of how unlikely it is to be hit by anything coming from space, experts remain heavily critical about China for not taking any preemptive measures on this event.
Experts suggest that the fact that a country has allowed or contributed to space junk coming down to Earth is simply outrageous. This is, of course, in spite of the fact that earth has been threatened by bigger objects before like NASA’s old space station Sky Lab, which weighed nearly 160.000 pounds.