Earthlings Beware: China's Space Station Will Crash Back to Earth on Easter


Shenzhou 9 launched on June 16, 2012, with three astronauts, including China's first female astronaut, fighter pilot Liu Yang.

An out-of-control Chinese space lab is expected to fall to Earth within days, according to the latest estimate from the European Space Agency (ESA), which is monitoring its descent.

China says it has lost control of the station and there is no way to know where it will re-enter the atmosphere.

Although the bus-sized spacecraft is most likely to burn up upon re-entry, some scientists fear that debris could survive the atmosphere and land anywhere 43 degrees either side of the equator.

According to the Aerospace Corporation, a non-profit space flight researcher, the probity of Tiangong-1 debris being hazardous is slim. The site offers real-time tracking of the lab's orbiting period, a map of the lab's location, such as the countries and oceans it's flying above, and its orbiting speed-right now it's circling earth once every 90 minutes or so.

Tiangong-1's potential re-entry areas.

A flaming 8.5-tonne (more than 3,200 kilograms) space station the size of a school bus is hurtling towards Earth and there is every reason to be anxious, but people shouldn't panic.

It is now orbiting at an average height of about 216.2 kilometres, but experts are still unclear about the exact location of re-entry. "That atmospheric density varies due to solar storms, other solar events, like sunspots, all kinds of things affect atmospheric density", he says.

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There's no reason to be alarmed, however. The only known person to have been hit by space junk is Lottie Williams of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Debris could potentially hit the centre-south of Italy, from roughly Florence downwards.

It's not uncommon for space debris, such as spent satellites and rocket stages, to fall to Earth although vessels that are capable of supporting human life are much rarer.

"This is by no means the first time this has happened", he said.

"Everyone thinks they're going to get hit by the Chinese space station".

The space station weighs in at almost 19,000 lbs and measures some 34 feet long, but not all of it will actually make it back down to Earth once it reenters our planet's atmosphere. The most famous was part of an oxygen tank that landed in Australia's outback.

Another spacecraft, Skylab, also did not injure anyone at the time when it crashed, and its parts were later gathered. The U.S. Defense Department has said China's programme could be aimed at blocking adversaries from using space-based assets during a crisis.

One of the most recent re-entries of space junk, comparable to Tiangong-1 in size, occurred in 2015, when Russia's Progress cargo ship failed to reach a stable orbit.