Out-of-control Chinese space station returns to Earth over Pacific Ocean

The out-of-control Chinese space station, the Tiangong-1, re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere Sunday evening over the southern Pacific Ocean.

The U.S. Strategic Command’s Joint Force Space Component Command confirmed re-entry at around 8:16 p.m. ET.

“The JFSCC used the Space Surveillance Network sensors and their orbital analysis system to confirm Tiangong-1’s re-entry,” JFSCC said in a statement, adding that other countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan and South Korea helped confirm the re-entry.

Tiangong-1, or “Heavenly Palace 1,” was the first space station built by and launched by China in 2011. Over the course of its life, there had been some manned missions to the space lab, but there was no one aboard when it came back to Earth. The country lost contact with it in 2016.

Due to heat and friction, most of the bus-sized, 8.5 metric ton space station, burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere, the China’s Manned Space Engineering Office said.


But there is still a possibility that chunks of space debris crashed into the ocean.

However, as the AeroSpace Corporation warned, the space station may have contained hydrazine, a highly toxic and corrosive substance, and therefore people were advised not to touch any debris or inhale any vapors from it.

Over the past several days, several groups tracked its fall to Earth, and many countries, including much of the U.S. (except for Alaska), were under its possible re-entry zone.

Predictions from trackers prompted Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to activate his state’s Emergency Operations Center.

Readiness aside, the odds of somebody getting walloped by space debris were small.

“It is highly unlikely that debris from this reentry will strike any person or significantly damage any property,” said AeroSpace Corp., adding, “the likelihood of any one person (i.e. YOU) being struck by debris is still far less than winning the Powerball Jackpot.”

According to Space.com, China has a successor space lab, the Tiangong-2, currently operating in Earth’s orbit.


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