Tags: chinese | spacelab | tiangong-1

Chinese Spacelab Tumbling Back to Earth, but Where or When?

Image: Chinese Spacelab Tumbling Back to Earth, but Where or When?
Tiangong-1 spacelab (CMSE)

By    |   Thursday, 04 January 2018 10:20 AM

The Chinese spacelab Tiangong-1 is tumbling uncontrollably back to Earth, with a possible smackdown in March, but after months of discussions and research no one really knows where it will end up.

Chinese space officials said after the mission of the Tiangong-1ended in 2016 they lost communication with the 19,000-pound spacecraft, website BGR.com reported.

Scientists have been monitoring Tiangong-1 ever since trying to forecast where it may end up. Researchers say most of its potential landing areas are over water, but there was about a one in 10,000 chance some debris lands on a populated area, potentially injuring people or damaging structures.

The Aerospace Corp., which has been monitoring Tiangong-1, said on Wednesday that while most of the spaceship is expected to burn up in re-entry, enough of it will survive to be a hazard.

Aerospace said there is little chance for someone to actually be hit by debris.

"There is a chance that a small amount of Tiangong-1 debris may survive reentry and impact the ground," Aerospace said in post on its website. "Should this happen, any surviving debris would fall within a region that is a few hundred kilometers in size and centered along a point on the Earth that the station passes over.”

"When considering the worst-case location, the probability that a specific person (i.e., you) will be struck by Tiangong-1 debris is about one million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot. In the history of spaceflight, no known person has ever been harmed by reentering space debris."

Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard astrophysicist and space industry enthusiast, told The Guardian in 2016 that scientists likely will not know where the old spacelab will end up until hours before it hits.

"You really can't steer these things," McDowell told The Guardian. "Even a couple of days before it re-enters we probably won't know better than six or seven hours, plus or minus, when it's going to come down. Not knowing when it's going to come down translates as not knowing where it's going to come down."

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The Chinese spacelab Tiangong-1 is tumbling uncontrollably back to Earth, with a possible smackdown in March, but after months of discussions and research no one really knows where it will end up.
chinese, spacelab, tiangong-1
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2018-20-04
Thursday, 04 January 2018 10:20 AM
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