According to The Aerospace Corporation, a federally funded space research centre that tracks orbital debris reentry, uncontrolled debris from a Chinese rocket could crash back to Earth as soon as Saturday.
China launched a new laboratory module called the Wentian for its Tiangong space station earlier this week from Hainan Island in the South China Sea. The Long March 5B rocket, which is carrying the module, will make an uncontrolled reentry.
This isn’t the first time rocket debris from China’s space programme has swooped through the atmosphere, creating a sense of dread.
In May 2021, the world waited to see where the remains of a rocket of the same class carrying the first module for the Tiangong space station would crash.
The rocket reentered the atmosphere over the Indian Ocean after days of intense monitoring by scientists and various agencies, including the United States Space Command.
A replica situation has now arisen.
According to the Aerospace Corporation, the rocket is approximately 175 feet long and weighs 23 metric tonnes. It is far too early to predict where it will land.
According to the US Space Command, the location of last year’s rocket reentry could not be “pinned down until within hours of its reentry.” According to a spokesperson for the agency, it is monitoring space debris from this week’s launch.
However, experts emphasise that the risk to people in general, and to the United States in particular, is extremely low.
“We estimate that only about 3% of the ground track is over the United States,” said Lael Woods, a director at The Aerospace Corporation.
According to Marlon Sorge, director of the Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies, space agencies generally try to guide the reentry of rockets over a certain size to ensure they land somewhere that poses no threat to people.
If an object has a 1 in 10,000 chance of colliding with someone, NASA will try to control its reentry, Sorge told USA TODAY.
“It’s fundamentally low-risk, but it’s far higher than it should be. It’s ten times higher than our limits “On Wednesday, Ted Muelhaupt, a reentry debris expert with the Aerospace Corporation, told USA TODAY.
“But the fact that we’re having this conversation; the fact that people are tracking it… watching it… is superfluous. Even if nothing happens, people must be prepared in case something does occur.”
NASA has previously chastised China’s space agency for allowing uncontrolled reentries.
Following the reentry of last year’s rocket debris, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson stated, “It is clear that China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris.”