A Chinese rocket that was blasted off a building block for a space station is set to make an uncontrolled re-entry back to Earth…
And its debris could crash into any inhabited area across the globe, alarming new reports are claiming.
This will be one of the largest uncontrolled landings of a spacecraft ever made, according to SpaceNews.
Of course, people have been left feeling a little uneasy by the announcement…
The rocket, known as Long March 5B Y2, lifted off on Thursday, April 29th, from China’s southern Hainan island, carrying the main module for China’s first permanent space station.
However, while the module separated from the launcher to continue its journey as planned, the launch vehicle’s core section also reached orbit and, consequently, is now slowly and unpredictably heading back to Earth.
On Tuesday, the twenty-one-tonne Long March 5B was recorded in orbit traveling at around 28,000 kilometers per hour…
Or 7 kilometres per second.
Long March 5B was initially expected to make a controlled landing in a specific part of the ocean…
But now, it will be making an uncontrolled landing somewhere across the globe, and potentially in an inhabited area.
Spaceflight observer and astrophysicist at Harvard University, Jonathan McDowell, told SpaceNews that it was “unacceptable” to let the core section of the launcher re-enter uncontrolled.
“Since 1990 nothing over 10 tons has been deliberately left in orbit to re-enter uncontrolled,” he said.
McDowell later tweeted that “this one is bigger than anything recent…”
Though not as big as previous uncontrolled landings, such as the 1979 reentry of NASA’s seventy-six-ton Skylab, whose uncontrolled reentry scattered debris across the Indian Ocean and Western Australia.
Any little comfort helps, right?
Anyway, calculations by Russian experts have since indicated a reentry window of 9:00 p.m. May 7th to 4:00 p.m. May 9th Eastern, with more exact predictions to follow in the coming days.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Defense Spokesperson, Mike Howard, said in a statement:
“The U.S. Space Command is aware of and tracking the location of the Chinese Long March 5B in space, but its exact entry point into the Earth’s atmosphere cannot be pinpointed until within hours of its reentry, which is expected around May 8th.”
“Until then, the 18th Space Control Squadron will be offering daily updates to the rocket body’s location on www.space-track.org beginning May 4th.”
“We will provide additional information as it becomes available,” the statement concluded.
But there is still one question burning upon the minds of terrified stargazers all over the world…
Where exactly could Long March 5B make its potentially deadly reentry?
Well, the Long March 5B core stage’s orbital inclination of 41.5 degrees means the rocket body passes a little farther north than New York, Madrid, and Beijing, and as far south as southern Chile and Wellington, New Zealand.
Subsequently, the rocket could make its reentry at any point within this area.
But fear not!
It remains most likely that any debris which survives the intense heat of re-entry will fall into the larger oceans – which account for around seventy percent of the Earth – or areas where there are no people living.
So don’t expect to see a rocket land on your suburban doorstep anytime soon.
Make sure to stay posted for further updates.