The US Space Command said on Twitter that a Chinese rocket that launched part of a space station last Monday re-entered the atmosphere on Friday. The debris fell into the Pacific Ocean.
Before the remnants of the missile fell into the ocean uncontrollably, it flew over southern Europe. In parts of Spain, the airspace has been temporarily closed. In the Spanish region of Catalonia, burning debris has already led to a spectacle on Thursday night.
China on Monday launched the so-called Long March 5B launch vehicle to carry the third and final segment of the Chinese space station Tiangong (Sky Palace) into space. The unit is called Mengtian, or Dreaming of Heaven.
These missiles weigh 21 tons and are 10 stories high. Objects of this size do not completely burn up in our atmosphere: “Typically 20 to 40 percent of these objects reach Earth, depending on the design,” according to the US-based Aerospace Corporation, a specialist in California.
But unlike the similar “re-entry” of American and Russian missiles, it was an uncontrolled landing. According to American expert Gregory Henning of the Center for Studies of Orbital Debris and Return, there was not enough data to make predictions about where space debris will end up. As a result, “88 percent of the world’s population was in the area where a missile could fall.” However, the odds of being exposed to a piece of debris are 6 in 10 trillion.
China has been letting its missiles crash unchecked for some time, much to the chagrin of other countries with space programs. “The four previous Long March missiles were the third, fourth, fifth and sixth cause of uncontrollable size.” re-entry Henning said. It crashed in West Africa (2020), the Indian Ocean (May 2021), Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines (July 2022), each time without incurring any losses.
“Most of the other events happened more than 30 years ago, and were also often accidental. The standards for space travel have changed since then, because we have the skills to smash such large objects in a controlled manner,” said the American expert. Most space-faring nations have already agreed to rules in this regard for some time. But it is up to each country to decide whether it wants to follow these rules.
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