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Kaustubh Katdare
Kaustubh Katdare • Oct 13, 2017

Out of control Chinese Space Station Tiangong-1 will crash to Earth

Tiangong-1 aka "Heavenly Palace" has been one of the most important Chinese space projects. Meant to be the prototype for the first phase of Chinese space station to be commissioned in 2023, Tiangong-1 was launched back in September 2011 and was to be de-orbited after two years. However, Tiangong-1 is still aloft, has gone out of control and is expected to crash to the Earth in the next few months.

The Tiangong-1 weighs about 8500 Kgs and has entered a decaying orbit. Just about last year, the Chinese officials confirmed that Tiangong-1 has gone out of control and is likely to crash to the surface.

The Chinese space agency has notified the UN that the expected time-frame for the crash is likely to be between October 2017 - April 2018.

As of now, the space station has already depressed to denser levels of the atmosphere and has accelerated the fall. Thanks to the Earth's atmosphere that most of the space station will be burnt into the space before hitting the surface.

However, there are certain parts of the space station that weigh over 100 Kgs, and are likely to make it to the surface. These surfaces would resemble huge fireballs in sky during the final hours of the fall.


NASA experts have said that it's impossible to predict the date and time of the final fall. Anyone getting hurt because of the Tiangong-1 debris is considered very remote. There is no way to control the fall of debris and we'd only know about the fall just about 4-6 hours prior. The location of the fall cannot be predicted either.

Even the slight change in the atmospheric conditions could alter the path of descent, and change the impact ground from one continent to another.

This isn't the first time that man-made space debris has had uncontrolled fall, but there haven't been any reported injuries. Back in 1991, Soviet Union's Salyut 7, a 20-tonne space station crashed to the Earth but didn't harm anyone. NASA's 77-tonne Skylab space station has had uncontrolled fall back in 1979 and some of the large pieces landed outside of Perth, Australia.

Source: The Guardian
This seems to be one of the things that Hollywood would make a film out of starring Bruce Willis. Unlike Gravity, the 2013 movie where the “Russians”, the favourite villans for American movies had to launched a missile to shoot a defunct spacecraft, in real life the spacecrafts disintegrate themselves once their purpose is achieved. This too shall return back to earth engulfed in flames and burn out before any harm is caused.

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