An uncontrollable Chinese space station is tumbling in the orbit and is expected to crash back to land this Easter, with a 14-hour window of uncertainty. The space station named Tiangong-1 was launched in 2011 and lasted only five years before malfunctioning. The Chinese space agency lost control of the prototype space lab in 2016 and has been a space junk ever since. The scientists have been predicting its crash since the China Manned Space engineering office declared “mission over” in 2016.
The Tiangong-1, better known as “Heavenly Palace”, will crash back to Earth at 16,500 mph and will burn up in the atmosphere itself. Though, scientists and engineers still cannot pinpoint where and when the 9.4-tonne school bus-size space station will fall. The Tiangong-1 is expected to crash sometime between March 31 and April 1, with focus on 10 am EDT (1400 GMT) on April 1, according to Aerospace Corp, which is tracking the space lab’s fall.
The risk of one being hit by a tiny piece of heavenly palace is negligible but it is not completely avoidable and is also impossible to calculate until its final descent begins. The Chinese space station flies over land and sea from 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south, which rules out re-entry over the UK and much of Europe. But more than five billion people do live beneath its flight path – in vast stretches of North and South America, China, the Middle East, Africa, and Australia.
It is possible that if you’re in the right place and know where to look, the view could be quite spectacular. According to scientists from China’s space agency, the view could like a slow-moving shooting star that splits into a few more shooting stars.
Tiangong-1 is believed to be the largest lump of space junk to fall to Earth so far this year but it is nowhere near a record-breaker. In 2001, the Russian space agency steered their 120 tonne Mir space station safely into the Pacific Ocean.