Published: Sat, March 10, 2018
Money | By Armando Alvarado

Chinese space station is falling from space, but where will it land?

Chinese space station is falling from space, but where will it land?

China's first space station is expected to come crashing down to Earth within weeks, but scientists have not been able to predict where the 8.5-tonne module will hit.

"I personally wouldn't be fearful at all about being struck by space debris", said Dr. Andrew Abraham, a senior member of the technical staff at the Aerospace Corporation, a federally funded research organization based in El Segundo, California, that has been modeling the 18,000-pound station's reentry path.

The first space station of China called "Tiangong-1", which is out of control, after 21 days will fall to the ground. "Should this happen, any surviving debris would fall within a region that is a few hundred kilometers in size and centered along a point on the Earth that the station passes over". Still, there's a degree of uncertainty, coupled with concerns that the spacecraft could have titanium fuel tanks holding toxic hydrazine, which could be risky if it crashed into an urban area.

Exactly where it will hit is slightly harder to predict, although experts agree it will be somewhere between latitudes of 43° north and 43° south.

In its latest report, the Aerospace Corporation identified northern China, central Italy, northern Spain, the Middle East, New Zealand, Tasmania, South America, southern Africa and northern states in the regions with higher chances.

However, Aerospace insisted the chance of debris hitting anyone living in these nations was tiny. As Geggel reports, the odds of someone getting smacked with a chunk of the space station is a million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball, which is roughly one in 292 million.

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An Aerospace analysis found that "the risk that an individual will be hit and injured by a piece of debris is estimated to be less than one in a one trillion". He said fragments from a similar-sized rocket re-entered the atmosphere and landed in Peru in January. "But the only ones who know what's onboard Tiangong-1, or even what it's made of, are the Chinese space agency".

He added that Tiangong-1's descent had been speeding up in recent months.

However, due to changing conditions in space, it is not possible to accurately predict where the module will land. There may be hazardous material on board that could survive re-entry, it said. But we will only know where they are going to land after after the fact'.

In September 2016, however, Chinese officials announced that they had lost control of the station, meaning Tiangong-1 (literally "heavenly palace") would eventually defy its name and come hurtling back to Earth.

It was used for both manned and unmanned missions and visited by China's first female astronaut, Liu Yang, in 2012.

The space station will burn up as it enters the atmosphere but there are chances that some small pieces of the station will survive the burning process of re-entry and will strike the planet.

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