Kramer Posted April 1, 2018 Share Posted April 1, 2018 China’s out-of-control, defunct space station is hurtling toward Earth and currently expected to enter the atmosphere sometime in the next 24 hours. The 8.5-ton space lab, known as Tiangong-1, is likely to burn up upon re-entry, which is expected to happen about 37 miles above ground, so it only poses a small risk to people and property. However, the exact timing of when the craft, which is about the size of a school bus, will fall back to Earth is uncertain due to how quiet the sun has been. The European Space Agency says it will happen between today and early Monday, while the Chinese Space Agency extends the potential landfall window to Wednesday. A rogue Chinese space station that weighs 8.5 tons is hurtling toward Earth. (European Space Agency) According to Space.com, if the sun is active, its energy pushes more strongly against Earth’s atmosphere. The atmosphere then balloons and becomes denser at higher altitudes, and the density impacts the drag against Tiangong-1’s orbital speed. Most of the U.S. appeared to be outside the likely landfall area, but a senior member of Aerospace Corp. told Space.com that all predictions are subject to change based on new information. In this June 13, 2013, file image released by China's Xinhua News Agency, the Shenzhou-10 manned spacecraft is seen while conducting docking with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space module. (AP) Although the Chinese station has received intense media coverage, each year around 1,000 large objects such as lost satellites and rocket stages fall back to Earth. These numbers are projected to increase over the coming years as more and more satellites are placed into orbit. Experts say there is also an economic risk that Tiangong-1 could present to air traffic as it hurtles toward Earth. This undated file photo shows researchers installing China's first space station module Tiangong-1 at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China's Gansu Province prior to its launch on Sept. 29, 2011. (AP) “The problem here is less the probability for an aircraft to be directly hit by space debris (which is low, but not zero), but the difficulty to predict precisely the area of possible impacts and their exact time of occurrence, because of uncertainties resulting from variations of solar activity,” Dieter Isakeit, chair of the information and communication committee for the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety, told Fox News in a statement. Air traffic controllers could take a more conservative approach, Isakeit says, and “totally close” large areas to air traffic for several hours if they don’t have more reliable data about where the station is headed. That type of closure has happened during other events, such as volcanic eruptions. In this June 18, 2012, file image released by China's Xinhua News Agency, Chinese astronauts, from left, Liu Wang, Liu Yang and Jing Haipeng wave while aboard the orbiting Tiangong-1 space station. (Xinhua News Agency/AP) The good news is that it’s very unlikely that anyone will be hit with debris from the rogue space station. “When considering the worst-case location, the probability that a specific person will be struck by Tiangong-1 debris is about one million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot,” the nonprofit Aerospace Corporation told the Sun. “In the history of spaceflight, no known person has ever been harmed by re-entering space debris.” Indeed, only one person is known to have been hit by falling space debris: American woman Lottie Williams, who was struck but not injured by a falling piece of a U.S. Delta II rocket while exercising in an Oklahoma park in 1997. Most famously, America's 77-ton Skylab crashed through the atmosphere in 1979, spreading pieces of wreckage near the southwestern Australia city of Perth, which fined the U.S. $400 for littering. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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