Tiangong-1 space station continues its uncontrolled descent towards Earth
- Author: Essie Rivera Mar 28, 2018,
Mar 28, 2018, 0:35
But no one knows for sure.
Simply put, that's why there's so much interest in Tiangong-1, China's first space station, which was launched in 2011 and has been in decreasing orbit ever since.
Given its status as a prototype, Tiangong-1 just isn't that big for a spacecraft, let alone a space station.
Based on worldwide precedents, the approximate re-entry location can not be decided until the last two hours before Tiangong-1 starts to fall. "There's still a fair amount of uncertainty".
It's the debris you need to be looking out for.
The Tiangong-1 is China's first space station and was launched seven years ago with an ambition to become a space superpower to overthrow the West and Russian Federation.
The lab completed its main missions following Shenzhou-10s return in June 2013. In 2016, China announced it had lost contact with Tiangong-1 and could therefore no longer control its direction, making predicting where it will end up hard. It is assumed that China is unable to control or communicate with the station, though Chinese officials have not confirmed that.
There is a chance that some bits of it will survive all the way down to the surface, but experts have worked out that Tiangong-1 will completely miss the UK. Because of that, it's almost impossible to pinpoint where the station will come down.
The UAI has compiled a table that lists when Tiangong-1 will be passing over or near parts of Italy: find the data here. "But luckily, most of the Earth is made up of water and it is likely that the Tiangong-1 will end up in a safe unpopulated zone like the Pacific", Prof. It will be impossible to narrow down the location until a couple of hours prior to reentry.
While researchers have admitted that some of the space station's parts could survive re-entry, the chances of these flaming pieces of debris crashing into land were minimal, Space.com said.
Although the odds are vanishingly small of a chunk of space station hitting you-The Aerospace Corporation estimates the odds of that happening are less than 1 in a trillion-should you find a piece of Tiangong-1 in your back yard, you shouldn't approach it, as it could contain toxic chemicals.
Only one person in history was hit by space debris falling to Earth. She was hit, and uninjured, when a used Delta II rocket burned up on re-entry in January 1997.
It might be possible to see streaks across the sky - similar to a meteor shower - at the time of reentry.
"This forecast was updated approximately weekly through to mid-March, and is now being updated every one to two days".
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.