Tiangong-1, China's first space station and also known as Heavenly Palace, is expected crash to Earth in mid-March.
The problem, however, is that the specific date and location of Tiangong-1's re-entry into the planet is unknown, raising concerns that thousands of pounds of debris will fall from the sky and wreak havoc. Should we all panic?
Out Of Control Tiangong-1 To Soon Crash To Earth
Tiangong-1, launched in 2011 and originally expected to fall back to Earth in the second half of 2017, is now predicted by nonprofit research company Aerospace Corporation to re-enter the planet's atmosphere by around mid-March.
The exact date of the Chinese space station's crash into Earth is unknown, with the event to happen any time between late February and early April. It has previously been reported that Tiangong-1 may slam into European countries such as Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Bulgaria, as it will re-enter the Earth at between the 43 North and 43 South latitudes. However, the exact location is also currently unknown.
Making matters worse is that there is a good chance that gear and hardware that are still on board Tiangong-1 may survive all the way to the ground, according to aerospace engineer Bill Ailor.
How Dangerous Is The Crashing Chinese Space Station?
Spacecraft and satellites re-enter the Earth's atmosphere all the time, so Tiangong-1's pending crash is nothing new. However, the problem is that the space station is massive, weighing almost 19,000 pounds with a volume of 15 cubic meters. With an estimate 10 percent to 40 percent of spacecraft making it to the ground after re-entry, that means between 2,000 pounds and 8,000 pounds for Tiangong-1.
Large spacecraft such as Tiangoing-1 usually come with safety plans to make sure that they do not cause harm if they re-enter the Earth. However, China lost contact and control of the space station in 2016 after deciding to extend its life span beyond the intended date of 2013.
Space agencies who have been tracking Tiangong-1, however, claim that there is no need to panic. In between 43 North and 43 South latitudes where it is expected to crash, most of the area is covered in ocean, while most of the land area is unpopulated. This means that there is very little chance that somebody would get hit by falling space debris.
Aerospace Corporation, however, noted that Tiangong-1 carries the rocket fuel hydrazine, which may cause nerve and liver damage in cases of long-term exposure. In case debris from the space station survives the re-entry and reaches the ground, people are warned not to touch it or inhale any fumes.