Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – China’s stricken space station, Tiangong-1, will destroy itself upon re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere anywhere from March 14 to April 19 and will scatter fiery debris over a wide area, including the USA.
This forecast, which was issued recently by the European Space Agency (ESA), is a rough estimate, however. Aerospace Corporation, a California-based non-profit research and development organization, predicted Tiangong-1 will smash into the earth’s atmosphere in the first week of April.
“Re-entry will take place anywhere between 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south (e.g. Spain, France, Portugal, Greece, etc.)” said ESA in a statement. “Areas outside of these latitudes can be excluded. At no time will a precise time/location prediction from ESA be possible.”
The likelihood debris from this space station will survive the fiery re-entry is small, and so is the chance anyone on the ground might be hit by it, but the lack of scientific consensus one exactly when and where the debris will rain down is raising concern.
On the other hand, Aerospace Corporation believes the space station will likely re-enter somewhere in the northern U.S. states, parts of South America, northern China, the Middle east, central Italy, northern Spain, New Zealand, the south of Africa or Tasmania in Australia.
It was only in April 2016 that China finally admitted Tiangong-1, its first space station, is plunging earthward and that it has no control over the fall of this 9,000 kilogram behemoth.
After six months of denial, Chinese officials confirmed the news of Tiangong-1’s demise, a fact reported by western media as early as March 2016. They did, however, reveal their space station will disintegrate in late 2017 but again failed to specify what part of the Earth will be affected by the re-entry destruction of Tiangong-1.
Western media reports in March 2016 described the descent of Tiangong-1 as “out of control.” The China National Space Agency isn’t certain when Tiangong-1 will re-enter the atmosphere. Experts said this uncertainty seems to indicate the station has been damaged and China is unable to control its fiery descent.
This uncertainty increases the danger to people on Earth from the space station’s destruction as it sheds pieces that plunge earthwards faster than speeding bullets. China’s Manned Space Engineering Office on March 21, 2016 quietly announced that all telemetry with Tiangong-1 had failed, leaving China with no ability to safely control the fall of the space station to Earth.
China planned to safely de-orbit Tiangong-1 in 2013 and replace it with Tiangong-2 in September 2016 and Tiangong-3 in 2017. It hasn’t explained why this safe de-orbit of Tiangong-1 failed.
The fact Chinese authorities have been very quiet about Tiangong-1 might mean the space station is already in freefall, said Dean Cheng, a senior research fellow at the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation
“That would seem to suggest that it’s not being de-orbited under control. That’s the implication,” he noted.
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