Published: Tue, April 03, 2018
Research | By Sheri Schwartz

South Korea Warns that Chinese Space Station will Hit Earth

South Korea Warns that Chinese Space Station will Hit Earth

China's defunct Tiangong 1 space station mostly burned up on re-entry Monday into the atmosphere over the central South Pacific, Chinese space authorities said.

The station's re-entry had stoked fear for months, however, as scientists remained unsure when the craft might land back on Earth.

The European Space Agency forecast the space laboratorys re-entry for about 7.25 am on Monday (local time). The chances of anyone person on Earth being hit by debris is considered less than one in a trillion.

Tiangong-1, colloquially known as "Heavenly Palace", was launched as China's first prototype space station serving as both a manned space laboratory and an experimental vehicle to demonstrate orbital docking capabilities.

Leroy Chiao, a former USA astronaut who flew on four space missions, told CNN he would be "surprised if any major pieces survived the re-entry, as the Tiangong-1 was not that big of a spacecraft as they go, and it did not have a heat shield".

The Aerospace Corp has predicted Tiangong-1 will re-enter the atmosphere seven hours either side of 2am on Easter Monday.

The Tiangong-1 space craft is expected to tear across the sky - similar to that of a meteor shower - once it plummets into the Earth's atmosphere.

Based on the space station's orbit it was assumed it would tear through the Earth's atmosphere somewhere 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south - a range covering most of the US, China, Africa, Australia, South America and southern European. The country launched the larger Tiangong-2 in September 2016, and that spacecraft is now in orbit.

Ren Guoqiang, China's defense ministry spokesman, told reporters Thursday that Beijing has been briefing the United Nations and the global community about Tiangong 1′s re-entry through multiple channels.

At an altitude of 60-70 kilometres, debris will begin to turn into "a series of fireballs", which is when people on the ground will "see a spectacular show", he said. The rest is expected to burn up on re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.

China vowed to publish regular updates via the China Manned Space website - but this has gone quiet on the matter. Its last crew departed in 2013 and contact with it was cut in 2016.

Both vessels are part of the preparation for a permanent Chinese presence in space, which is likely to come into operation just as funding for the International Space Station is expected to end.

Since China conducted its first crewed mission in 2003 - becoming only the third country after Russian Federation and the do so - it has taken on increasingly ambitious projects, including staging a spacewalk and landing its Jade Rabbit rover on the moon.

China also plans to put a man on the moon and send a rover to Mars.

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