Chinese space station hurtling toward Earth

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The U.S. Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder is monitoring the Tiangong-1 space station which is also on the verge of re-entering the atmosphere.

In 1997 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Lottie Williams got a bruise on her shoulder from a small piece of debris from a rocket launched the year before.

As of Thursday, the space lab is orbiting the Earth at a height of 196.4 kilometers (122 miles). However, scientists assure that its crash back won't harm the planet.

The Chinese space station called Tiangong-1 is expected to crash to Earth within hours. "But after it stopped functioning in 2016, they chose to let it fall to earth on its own".

The space station is too big - it weighs 9.4 tons and is about the size of a school bus, according to USA Today - to predict where the atmosphere could drag it.

Tiangong-1 was launched on September 30, 2011 from China.

Tiangong-1 - or "Heavenly Palace" - was placed in orbit in September 2011, an important step in China's efforts towards building its own space station. China's first female astronaut Liu Yang visited in 2012. An opportunity sky gazing experts, like Richardson, say you do not want to miss. The progress of the satellite can be tracked here.

However, it told the United Nations a year ago that the space lab had "ceased functioning" in March 2016, without giving any reasons.

Experts have downplayed any concerns about the Tiangong-1 causing any damage when it hurtles back to Earth, with the ESA saying that almost 6,000 uncontrolled re-entries of large objects have occurred over the past 60 years without harming anyone. In the continental US, that's Sunday evening. But more than five billion people do live beneath its flight path - in vast stretches of North and South America, China, the Middle East, Africa, and Australia.

The European Space Agency (ESA) said re-entry "will take place anywhere between 43ºN and 43ºS", which covers a vast stretch north and south of the equator.

According to the Renewable Energy Sources, the ESA points out that it is very hard to make a very accurate forecast, partly because of the changing solar activity, ie the currents of the particles that the Sun sends to Earth and which affect the Earth's geomagnetic field.

Robert Pearlman, editor in chief of the space history was quoted in saying, "Any pieces of Tiangong-1 that reach the ground, regardless of where they fall, remain property of China until the Chinese government explicitly relinquishes ownership".

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