Published: Wed, April 04, 2018
Research | By Derrick Holloway

Space station re-entry called mostly successful

Space station re-entry called mostly successful

We're asking about Tiangong-1, the Chinese space station that finally "de-orbited" from space and into the Pacific around 8 PM Eastern time on April 1. The Chinese lost control of the spacecraft a couple of years ago and thus could not guide it to the middle of an ocean.

The Tianong-1 Space Station made its entry and burned over the Pacific Ocean. "Additionally, it was not mentioned whether the reentry was to be targeted or remain uncontrolled".

The space lab will mostly be burnt up in the atmosphere and it's highly unlikely to cause any damage on the ground. But this spacecraft was large and multilayered enough that it was possible at least some segments or parts would survive the reentry.

With the odds of any one person being struck by space debris at 70 million-to-one, the chances that it would actually hurt a human were pretty remote. After all, oceans cover 71% of Earth's surface, so, statistically, that'd be the safest place for something to end up. Pacific time on Sunday, according to the U.S. Strategic Command's Joint Force Space Component Command.

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"It's been tumbling and spinning for a while, which means that when it really starts to come down it's less predictable about what happens to it", Tucker said.

The spacecraft - about the size of a city bus - nearly entirely burned up on its entrance to the Earth's atmosphere, breaking into small pieces as it fell over the South Pacific Ocean, NPR reports. As noted by the experts from Aerospace Corporation, the probability of falling on the head of the space debris is equal to one accident per trillion. In September 2016, China launched its second space lab, Tiangong-2.

In March 2016, the Chinese announced that communications had ended with the space station, but did not provide details.

The literal fall of Tiangong-1 has always been tracked and anticipated, first noticed by an amateur satellite tracker in 2016, months before the Chinese government acknowledged that their space lab would come crashing back down from its uncontrolled orbit.

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The Tiangong-1, whose name translates as "Heavenly Palace 1", had previously docked with Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 spacecraft, and was visited by six astronauts, including two females.

China's foreign and defense ministries said the country had relayed information about Tiangong 1's return to Earth to the United Nations' space agency and others.

"Tiangong-1 will go down in China's space history".

Since the loss of contact, Tiangong-1's orbit slowly decayed.

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But it would have been a sudden stop, as moving that quickly into thicker air is a recipe for a fireball.

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