Out-of-control Chinese space station set to crash land on earth

Out-of-control Chinese space station set to crash land on earth

Most of Tiangong-1 will break apart and burn up in Earth's atmosphere, but some of the space lab's sturdier pieces will probably survive re-entry, experts said.

The approximate re-entry location can not be decided until the last two hours before it starts to fall based on worldwide precedents, he said.

IADC members will use the fall of Tiangong-1 to conduct their annual re-entry test campaign, during which participants will pool their predictions of the time window, as well as their respective tracking datasets obtained from radar and other sources. Is there cause to be anxious?- Speaking at a recent press briefing, the head of the ESA's space debris office, Holger Krag, told reporters "Our experience is that for such large objects typically between 20% and 40% of the original mass will survive re-entry and then could be found on the ground, theoretically".

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China launched Tiangong-1, or "Heavenly Palace", in September 2011 to demonstrate on-orbit rendezvous and docking capabilities.

However, Alan Duffy, a research fellow in the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, said that China's secrecy around the space mission made the risks hard to assess.

In the past, there have been several crash landings of space stations, including NASA's 77-tonne Skylab in 1979 and the Soviet Union's 20-tonne Salyut 7 space station in 1991, but there haven't been any casualties.

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The space station will fall somewhere between about 43 degrees North and 43 degrees South latitude, according to its orbit.

"If it happens to be falling in an area where you'll be able to see it, then it should be pretty obvious if you're looking up at the night sky", Parks said.

A flaming 8.5-tonne (more than 3,200 kilograms) space station the size of a school bus is hurtling towards Earth and there is every reason to be anxious, but people shouldn't panic. Williams was struck on the shoulder by a small piece of a rocket's fuel tank in 1997 while out for a walk.

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"But you may get to wave it goodbye as it streaks across the sky". And sometimes that junk falls back to Earth. To date, the largest structure to plummet through the atmosphere was the 268,000-pound Russian Mir space station, which made a controlled descent and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean in March 2001.

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