Chinese Space Station Comes Tumbling to Earth Over Pacific Ocean

Carter cameo sees Racing past Clermont

The spiraling spacecraft made its descent at around 8:16PM ET on April 1st, according to US Strategic Command, which was able to confirm the exact point of reentry along with organizations in eight other countries.

Prior to Tiangong-1, the largest object to fall back to Earth without any control was Salyut-2, a Soviet space station that fell out of orbit after an accident in 1973.

"The JFSCC works alongside government, industry and global partners to track and report reentries, to include today's Tiangong-1 reentry, because the space domain is vital to our shared worldwide security interests", Maj. "Although it's only aimed to test the technologies for space station, it has many far-reaching effects", Mao Xinyuan, a columnist, was quoted as saying. So if an estimate was off by an hour, the station would have been 17,000 miles away in a different spot. The Tiangong-1 had previously docked with Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 spacecraft. And, recently, the agency had updated that Toangong-1 would most probably fall to Earth between Friday and Monday. However, the odds were always good that it wouldn't hit anyone. While most parts of the defunct station are believed to have burned up in the Earth's atmosphere, some pieces may have survived and plummeted into the water. The chances of any one person being hit by debris are considered less than one in a trillion.

It was not immediately clear if the remains of the space station, known as Tiangong-1, had been accounted for.

"The JFSCC works alongside government, industry and global partners to track and report reentries, to include today's Tiangong-1 reentry, because the space domain is vital to our shared worldwide security interests", said Maj.


The space station is expected to be fully operational around 2022, it said.

While it does appear that a fair amount of the Tiangong-1 may have survived the huge heat created by the friction of reentry, any debris that remained appears to have fallen harmlessly into the Pacific, "out in the middle of nowhere, which is exactly where we hoped it would land", according Roger Thompson, a senior engineering specialist with Aerospace Corp. of El Segundo, California. Then the vehicle's successor, Tiangong-2, would take over as China's primary astronaut habitat.

In mid-March of this year, it was evident that Tiangong-1 would return within a few weeks.

Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist at Australian National University, said that Tiangong 1's re-entry was "mostly successful" and that it would have been better if the space station had not been spinning toward Earth. That meant China could no longer send commands to the spacecraft while it was in orbit. It shows what a cluttered mess Earth's orbit is. "The Earth is very large so the likelihood someone will get hurt is very low", Horbury told Newsweek.

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