Tags: chinese | space station | plunge | earth

Chinese Space Station to Plunge Back to Earth

Image: Chinese Space Station to Plunge Back to Earth
In this TV grab, a camera on the Tiangong-1 space lab module shows the Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft docking with the Tiangong-1 in space on 24 June 2012. (Imaginechina via AP Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 17 October 2017 06:45 AM

The Chinese space station Tiangong 1 will be plunging back Earth in the next few months, perhaps disastrously, but no one knows when or where.

The Tiangong 1, which translates to "Heavenly Palace," was the country's first space laboratory but Chinese space officials confirmed last year that it has lost control of it, The Washington Post reported. They said at the time that some of the 8.5 ton laboratory will burn up upon re-entering Earth's atmosphere.

Chinese officials first expected the 34-foot-long laboratory would return to Earth later this year, but in May space officials told the United Nations it could land anytime from this month to April 2018.

"(The Tiangong-1) had fully fulfilled its historic mission," said a statement from the UN's Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in May. "To date, Tiangong-1 has maintained its structural integrity. Its operational orbit is under constant and close surveillance by China."

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist from Harvard University, told The Guardian that as much as 220 pounds of the space laboratory could survive re-entry and slam back into Earth.

Wu Ping, deputy director of China's manned space engineering office, told the state-run Xinhua news agency last September that the remains from the space station were unlikely to cause damage on the ground or affect aviation activities.

Wu said that the space station was in service for 4½ years, 2 ½ years longer than expected and docked successfully with three different Chinese spacecraft, according to Xiahua. The space laboratory undertook a series of tasks as well, Wu added.

The Guardian pointed out that NASA's Skylab space station fell to Earth in a virtually complete uncontrolled descent in 1979, with some pieces landing outside Perth in Western Australia.

The Soviet Union's Salyut 7 space station tumbled back to Earth in 1991, still docked to another spacecraft called Cosmos 1686, The Guardian stated. The spacecraft broke up over Argentina, scattering debris over the town of Capitán Bermúdez, the newspaper noted.

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The Chinese space station Tiangong 1 will be plunging back Earth in the next few months, perhaps disastrously, but no one knows when or where.
chinese, space station, plunge, earth
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2017-45-17
Tuesday, 17 October 2017 06:45 AM
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