nsucurrent.com
nsucurrent.com April 24, 2018


Space station the size of a bus to fall from the sky

28 March 2018, 01:04 | Colleen Roy

Enlarge Image

Enlarge Image

A 9.3-ton (8.5 metric tons) mass of metal careening out of orbit toward some unknown location in Earth's vast middle has some folks anxious, but it represents no meaningful danger to the public.

Within that zone, however, is where most of the Earth's population resides. "The worst would be if some debris came down in a [populated] area".

China's Tiangong-1 space station is predicted to enter Earth's atmosphere sometime during Easter weekend, but the exact location of its re-entry remains a mystery.

It settled into an orbit about 217 miles (350 kilometers) above Earth without anyone aboard.

The Tiangong-1, Chinese space station was initially launched in September 2011.

The 9.4-ton (8.5 metric tons) Tiangong-1 is about 34 feet long by 11 feet wide (10.4 by 3.4 meters) and features 530 cubic feet (15 cubic m) of habitable internal volume. He has been tracking the 18,000-pound space station since 2016.

The European Space Agency (ESA) said re-entry "will take place anywhere between 43ºN and 43ºS" which covers most of the world's populated areas.

Enlarge Image The doomed Chinese
Enlarge Image The doomed Chinese"Heavenly Palace space station moves across the night sky. Gianluca Masi Virtual Telescope Project

It is thought that the Tiangong-1, which officially terminated its data communications with ground control on March 16, may fall and crash to the ground or hit the sea between 43 degrees north and south of the equator at an unknown longitude. It is assumed that China is unable to control or communicate with the station, though Chinese officials have not confirmed that.

There is uncertainty with any spacecraft reentry and most of that comes down to the density of the upper atmosphere.

There are approximately 20,000 objects orbiting our Earth that have to be constantly tracked by the likes of ESA and NASA to make sure valuable space assets are safe from collisions with leftover space debris objects.

But even among controlled re-entries, the upcoming, uncontrolled descent of tiny Tiangong-1 will be a blip.

Don't worry. According to space debris experts, the chances that you personally will be hit by of a chunk of space metal are essentially zero - less than one in a trillion. "It is still technically property of China", he says.

"Even a couple of days before it re-enters we probably won't know better than six or seven hours, plus or minus, when it's going to come down", Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell told The Guardian in 2016. "Now, the caveat in that is that individuals would not be free to go and sue the Chinese government".

In a May 2017 statement to the United Nations, representatives from the Permanent Mission of the People's Republic of China also said Tiangong-1 will pose little threat to Earth's inhabitants.






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