Scientists Track Chinese Space Station's Final Hours in Orbit

Scientists Track Chinese Space Station's Final Hours in Orbit

"And we don't know exactly where that's going to occur".

"The most common spacecraft parts to survive the heat of re-entry are those with the highest melting temperature", says Dr Alice Gorman, a space archaeologist at Flinders University. While most of the 8.5 tonne structure is likely to burn up as it re-enters the atmosphere, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said on Friday said that "there is concern that debris could make landfall".

NASA's first space station, Skylab, fell to Earth in an out-of-control reentry in 1979, burning up harmlessly in the process.

On March 16, 2016, Tiangong-1 terminated its data service, officially ending its mission and starting its orbital decay.

A defunct space laboratory is set to become a celestial fireball as it re-enters earth's atmosphere in the next 24 hours, China's space authority said today, hitting speeds of over 26,000 kilometres an hour before disintegrating.

A Chinese space station is now crashing toward earth. "And one hour still means nearly one revolution around the Earth", said Holger Krag, the head of Esa's space debris office.

The Paris-based agency, which is managing the worldwide campaign to follow the laboratory's fall, said on Saturday that the time and place of its re-entry continues to be a "highly variable" prediction affected by the changing solar activity, reports Efe news.

Aerospace Corp. reports that a Ms Lottie Williams of Tulsa, Oklahoma was struck by a small piece of space debris in 1996, but was unharmed.

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"It will not cause damage to objects on earth nor produce toxic substances", Chinese military officials said earlier.

Such falling spacecraft do "not crash into the Earth fiercely like in sci-fi movies, but turn into a splendid (meteor shower) and move across the attractive starry sky as they race towards the Earth", it said.

Harvard University scientist Jonathan McDowell believes just 100 to 200 kilograms of Tiangong -1's debris would make it to the Earth's surface.

Where will Tiangong-1 fall?

Tiangong is certainly on the large size for uncontrolled re-entry objects but it is far from being the biggest, historically.

The 10.4-metre-long (34.1-foot) Tiangong-1, or "Heavenly Palace 1", was launched in 2011 to carry out docking and orbit experiments as part of China's ambitious space program, which aims to place a permanent station in orbit by 2023.

In this 2010 file photo, visitors sit beside a model of China's Tiangong-1 space station at the 8th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai in southern China's Guangdong Province.

The scientists have been predicting its crash since the China Manned Space engineering office declared "mission over" in 2016.