According to a press release issued by the US military, the US military is tracking a huge piece of Chinese space debris that is likely to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere sometime around 8 May. But as the Pentagon points out, no one knows where it will land yet.
The space debris under consideration is formally known as a Long March 5B, a rocket launched into the orbit of China’s Tianhe Space Station on 28 April. There are concerns that it may descend into an area inhabited by humans.
The Pentagon has said it is tracking a large Chinese rocket that is out of control and set to reenter Earth's atmosphere this weekend, raising concerns about where its debris may make impact https://t.co/ePMT0ULPMd
— CNN (@CNN) May 5, 2021
The out-of-control Long March-5B Y2 rocket is falling back to Earth after delivering the first module of China’s upcoming space station Tianhe into orbit. However, Chinese authorities aren’t able to bring the rocket down safely into the ocean. Instead, debris from its re-entry could hit populated area
What happens with Chinese Rocket
- U.S. Space Command is aware of and tracking the location of the Chinese Long March 5B in space, but its exact entry point into the Earth’s atmosphere cannot be pinpointed until within hours of its reentry, which is expected around May 8, Space Command said in a statement. “Until then, the 18th Space Control Squadron will be offering daily updates to the rocket body’s location on Space-track.org beginning May 4.
- The roughly 100-foot object is orbiting Earth every 90 minutes and zips past north of New York, Beijing and as far south as New Zealand, Fox News reported citing a space monitoring website.
- The report said that despite the threat it is most likely to splash in one of the world’s oceans or in an isolated area and the US tracking out-of-control wreckage of Chinese rocket falling back to earth
- The most likely event would be any debris escaping from the intense heat of the reentry falling into the oceans or uninhabited areas, but there is a risk of damage to people or property and the U.S. military has assured citizens that this is one of the reasons they’re on the watch.
I don’t think people should take precautions. The risk that there will be some damage or that it would hit someone is pretty small – not negligible, it could happen – but the risk that it will hit you is incredibly tiny and so I would not lose one second of sleep over this on a personal threat basis,” Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Astrophysics Center at Harvard University, told CNN.
The first @SpaceTrackOrg TIP impact prediction message for the CZ-5B rocket is out: reentry predicted between 0100 UTC May 8 and 1900 UTC May 9. This is a narrower and weighted-earlier window than the @AerospaceCorp prediction of between 0000 UTC May 8 and 0800 UTC May 10. pic.twitter.com/ICJCstEbg5
— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) May 5, 2021
This comes a time when several experts in the West have raised concerns about the clandestine ambitions behind the construction of the Chinese station and the triggering of a new ”space race.
The 18th SPCS at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, is tasked with providing 24/7 support to the Space Surveillance Network and tracks more than 27,000 man-made objects in space, the majority of which are in low-earth orbit,” U.S. Space Command said in a statement.
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