New Delhi: When the Chinese space agency launched its space lab Tiangong-1 in 2011, little did they expect it to come ‘crashing’ back to Earth six years later.
The Asian country’s first space station that was hailed as a potent political symbol of China’s growing power, is expected to crash land some time this year or early 2018.
The Chinese space station is accelerating its fall towards us and will reach the ground in the coming months, Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell told the Guardian. It is decaying quickly and he expects “expect it will come down a few months from now – late 2017 or early 2018”, he said.
Tiangong was launched by China as part of a plan to show off its position as a global superpower. The country’s space agency referred to the station as the “Heavenly Palace” and conducted a range of missions, some of which included astronauts.
In September last year, however, scientists at China’s CNSA space agency admitted to having lost control of the lab, saying that it would be crash-landing on Earth. That put an end to months of speculation, as experts watching the path of the station suggested that it had been behaving strangely.
The news also raised immediate concerns of how the falling space debris will put the people on Earth at risk.
According to the Independent UK, it’s unlikely that anyone will be harmed by the crash, or that anyone would see it at all, since it’s most likely that the lab will drop into the sea. But it’s still possible that it would crash somewhere near people.
Since engineers have lost control of Tiangong-1, it is difficult to predict where it will land because the capsule is expected to be thrown around by the wind as it comes down.
Even a slight push from the weather could send it from one continent to the next.
Much of the debris will burn up on its way into Earth’s atmosphere. But chunks as big as 100kg will make their way through and fall from the skies, said McDowell, the Guardian reported.
In the past, space junk has fallen within sight of people, and there have even been reports of injuries as well.