Where on earth will the Chinese space station crash?

Wednesday, 28 Mar, 2018

The ASI is one of 13 worldwide space agencies monitoring the satellite as it approaches earth for an uncontrolled crash landing.

The shape of China's falling space station Tiangong-1 can be seen in this radar image from the Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques near Bonn, Germany.

Firstly, most of the debris will be disbursed on hitting the Earth's atmosphere, but 30-40 percent of it will likely survive. Indeed, the fact that our sun is now experiencing low activity in its solar cycle means the atmospheric gases have been less dense at higher altitudes, allowing Tiangong-1 to stay aloft longer than originally predicted.

It's not uncommon for space debris, such as spent satellites and rocket stages, to fall to Earth although vessels that are capable of supporting human life are much rarer. Scientists there hoped it would be a testament to man's future in space.

Speeding around our planet at about four miles per second, the uncrewed spacecraft is in a decaying orbit and out of control, tumbling through the uppermost reaches of the atmosphere.

The lab will likely enter the atmosphere between March 31 and April 4, according to Beijing Aerospace Control Centre and other agency estimates.

The latest analysis from the European Space Agency predicts Tiangong-1, a Chinese prototype space station, will reenter the atmosphere and burn up as soon as Friday.

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Aerospace Corporation, which tracks space junk for NASA and Space Command, says the odds you will be hit - even if you are in the highest-probability zones - are about 1 million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot.

China is already building another more ambitious space station - Tiangong-2 was launched in 2016 - as well as a lunar base, and is ramping up its space program dramatically.

Astronomer Gianluca Masi with the Virtual Telescope Project has been tracking the space station and even managed to photograph it streaking across the sky earlier this month.

It weights 18,740 pounds (about 8 tons) and is about 34 feet in length and 11 feet wide.

On its southern band, the debris could fall on cities in Argentina and New Zealand, although the vast majority of the potential surface where debris could land are covered by ocean.

Nevertheless, Chinese scientists do not know where and when Tiangong-1 will crash, describing its time-frame for re-entry as "highly variable".

Only one person has ever been hit by space debris.