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Chinese Space Station Is Out Of Control And Expected To Smash Into Earth Over Easter

Image Source: Supplied
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Tiangong-1, the Chinese space station, will probably crash to Earth over the long Easter weekend. It seems likely that it will hit Australia, but no one knows for sure.

It could crash as early as Friday the 30th of March. It might fall as late as the 2nd of April, which is Monday. However, the European Space Agency says that the time frame is variable.

The name of the space station, Tiangong-1, means “celestial palace”, and it was launched in September of 2011.

After it completed its scientific missions back in 2016, the space station was decommissioned. It officially ended its service on the 21st of March in 2016.

Shortly after it was retired, rumors started regarding the possibility that China had lost communication with the equipment, which weighs 8.5 tonnes and is hurtling through orbit.

Image Source: Supplied

Sydney University’s Dr. Xiaofeng Wu told the media that it seemed as if they lost the communication link to the space station; as a result, there is no data link.

Dr. Wu, who is a space engineer, stated that if there isn’t a signal link between the space station and ground control, then engineers do not have any ability to direct where the satellite will land.

Ever since Tiangong-1 was decommissioned, the space station’s altitude has been gradually decreasing. Now, it seems as if the station will de-orbit and crash into the Earth this weekend.

Image Source: Supplied

It has not been confirmed whether or not China, which is known for being a pretty secretive country, has managed to re-establish links with the space station. If China has been able to do so, that would allow them fire the station’s engines at the last second, thereby allowing them to avoid collisions with land.

Presently, Tiangong-1 completes an orbit of Earth every 90 minutes. It does so at a speed of about 17,400 miles per hour, or 28,000 kilometers per hour; its trajectory varies between the latitudes of 43 degrees south and 43 degrees north according to the European Space Agency.

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What this means is that—in addition to Australia—Africa, South America, most of the United States, and Southeast Asia are all possible impact zones.

The descent of the space station will get faster and faster as the atmosphere through which it is ploughing gets thicker and thicker—according to the deputy director of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research, Dr. Elias Aboutanios.

There should be a visible fireball when Tiangong-1 re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere and then begins to break apart.

Dr. William Ailor, who has a PhD in aerospace engineering, said that Tiangong-1 will peel like an onion on its way to the Earth’s surface. He has estimated that somewhere between 10 to 40 percent of Tiangong-1 will survive re-entry intact and actually make it to the surface of the Earth.

Image Source: EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY/SUPPLIED

Because most of the station will disintegrate when it passes through the Earth’s atmosphere, there really isn’t any major cause for concern as far as human life is concerned. Certain dense parts of the station—such as the rocket engines or the fuel tanks—may not completely burn up. However, even if they do not, it is unlikely that the debris will actually hit anyone.

It has been estimated that the odds of a person being hit by debris from Tiangong-1 is roughly 10 million times less than that person being hit by lightning. The average person is far more likely to win the Powerball lottery jackpot. Essentially, the chances of your getting hit is zero—technically, about 1 in 20 trillion.

The only time a person was ever hit by what was believed to be part of a rocket was back in 1997. That person was hit on the shoulder, but she was not injured.

Tiangong-1 was never designed to be a permanent orbital station; its successor, Tiangong-2, also isn’t designed to be one. Tiangong-2 was launched in 2016, on the 15th of September. Tiangong-2 is intended to test technologies that will be used in the “Chinese large modular space station”, which will likely be launched somewhere between 2019 and 2022.

There was supposed to be a Tiangong-3, but plans were scrapped when the goals for Tiangong-2 and Tiangong-3 were merged.

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Written by Kevin Barrett

Kevin Barrett is an award-winning reporter currently residing in one of the many suburbs of Philadelphia. In addition to working in journalism, he was worked in higher education and logistics. He is single, but does have a distracting little dog who keeps him from achieving maximum productivity.

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