Chinese space station set to crash-land on Earth's surface within months

Remigio Civitarese
Ottobre 14, 2017

But in 2016, after months of speculation, Chinese officials confirmed they had lost control of the space station and it would crash to Earth in 2017 or 2018.

Tiangong-1, or "Heavenly Palace", was launched in 2011 and has hosted both unmanned and manned missions.

The space station's orbit has been decaying steadily since losing contact and in recent times it has reached into dense parts of the Earth's atmosphere and has started falling faster.

"Now that [its] perigee is below 300km and it is in denser atmosphere, the rate of decay is getting higher", said Jonathan McDowell, a renowned astrophysicist from Harvard University and a space industry enthusiast. China's space agency, United Nations (UN) station in time zone between October 2017 and April 2018, world would hit information.

Scientists expect Tiangong-1 to crash land sometime in the next six months, and though much of it will be destroyed by Earth's atmosphere, 100kg pieces could still rain down to the surface.

But there's an outside chance that it'll crash-land in an area where people live, and it'll be impossible to predict, even in the hours before landing, exactly where it'll hit.

Speaking with The Guardian a year ago, astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell said: "You really can't steer these things".

McDowell said a slight change in atmospheric conditions could nudge the landing site "from one continent to the next".

"Not knowing when it's going to come down translates as not knowing where it's going to come down", he says, adding that almost negligible alterations in atmospheric condition can change the landing location from "one continent to the next".

In 1979, NASA's Skylab space station hit Australia during its own fall to Earth, and the Soviet Union's Salyut 7 space station followed suit over Argentina in 1991.

The 8.5-ton Tiagong-1 space station is making a descent toward earth in an uncontrolled fashion.

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