China's Tiangong-1 Space Station Could Crash Down To Earth As Early As March 24

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China lost control of a space station last year. Now people know when the space station will crash to Earth. Tiangong-1 will come crashing down to Earth before April 19.  ( STR | AFP/Getty Images )

In January 2018, China admitted that it had lost control of the Tiangong-1 space station. There's no clue as to where it may land and when it will be hitting Earth's atmosphere. Rough estimates have the space station falling to Earth as early as March 24.

The station's movements are being tracked by the European Space Agency (ESA).

Tiangong-1 Heading Toward Earth

The ESA estimated that Tiangong-1 will fall into Earth's atmosphere sometime between March 24 and April 19. It is expected to enter the atmosphere between 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south latitudes. ESA says that areas outside of these latitudes can be ruled out.

Given the imprecise estimate for the reentry of Tiangong-1, the ESA will constantly update the trajectory and tracking for the route of the space station throughout the month. At its current route, Tiangong-1 will land near the northern latitudes. This means it will land around the northern United States, Spain, Portugal, Greece, China, the Middle East, and other countries.

According to the Aerospace Corporation, a small amount of debris from Tiangong-1 might survive reentry. It has the chances of debris from Tiangong-1 hitting someone at about 1 million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot.

It also cites that in the history of spaceflight, no one has ever been harmed from reentering space debris but does note that there has been one person struck by space debris. That person was not injured.


Tiangong-1 was the first space station built and launched by China. China announced in March 2016 that telemetry services with the space station stopped. According to the Aerospace Corporation, amateur satellite trackers claim that Tiangong-1 has been uncontrolled since June 2016.

There may be hazardous materials on board the space station when it lands. A highly toxic and corrosive substance called hydrazine could survive reentry. If it is found among the reentry materials, it is not safe to touch or inhale the vapors that it might emit.

Originally, it was planned to have a controlled reentry. Tiangong-1's reentry would've been controlled by firing its engines to slow it down enough so that it would fall toward Earth. It would've been aimed toward a large, unpopulated region in the South Pacific Ocean.

When China lost control of its engines, these plans were lost. China still hasn't said when they lost control of the space station.

Tiangong-1's name means "heavenly palace."

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