Debris from the Chinese 5B Long March rocket re-enters the Indian Ocean

Debris from the Chinese 5B Long March rocket re-enters the Indian Ocean

Previously:Chinese rocket hurtling back to Earth Friday, China tried to ease global fears by saying the rocket was expected to mostly burn up on reentry and posed little threat to people and property on the ground. The Long March 5B rocket carrying China’s Tianhe space station core module lifted off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in southern China’s Hainan province April 29, 2021. Known as the Heavenly Harmony, the space station will be China’s first to host astronauts long-term.

On Saturday, models and visualizations from various space research organizations showed the debris could land along numerous flight paths crossing the globe.  The debris came from the largest section of the rocket, which launched the main module of China’s first permanent space station into orbit. Usually, discarded rocket stages reenter the atmosphere soon after liftoff, normally over water, and don’t go into orbit.

Australia, Africa, parts of Europe, South America, Central America and the U.S. were all under possible reentry zones, according to Aerospace Corporation, a California-based non-profit group that operates a space research and development center. The news comes after days of uncertainty, with experts saying the rocket’s size and speed made it nearly impossible to pinpoint what might happen as it fell to earth. The section was roughly 100 feet long and and is among the biggest pieces of space debris to fall to Earth.

China’s first space station, Tiangong-1, crashed into the Pacific Ocean in 2016 after Beijing confirmed it had lost control. In 2019, the space agency controlled the demolition of its second station, Tiangong-2, in the atmosphere. Contributing: The Associated Press The 18-ton rocket that fell last May was the heaviest debris to fall uncontrolled since the Soviet space station Salyut 7 in 1991.

It’s not the first rocket to fall to the earth in recent memory. Last year, part of a Chinese rocket, one of the largest pieces of uncontrolled space debris ever, passed directly over Los Angeles and Central Park in New York City before landing in the Atlantic Ocean, CNN reported. China plans 10 more launches to carry additional parts of the space station into orbit.

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