Chinese space station to crash to Earth at Easter Sunday


Simply put, that's why there's so much interest in Tiangong-1, China's first space station, which was launched in 2011 and has been in decreasing orbit ever since. Chinese officials initially said they planned to de-orbit Tiangong-1 in a controlled fashion, using the craft's thrusters to guide it into Earth's atmosphere.

Now, however, Tiangong-1's time has come; we know that it's going to reenter the Earth's atmosphere some time between March 30 and April 2, but we'll still not be able to predict where it will reenter until its final moments. "It spends 20 percent of its time between 40 and 43 deg N or S due just to the geometry of an inclined circle", says McDowell.

It is not now confirmed whether notoriously secretive China has been able to maintain or re-establish links with Tiangong-1, which would let them fire engines at the last minute to avoid land collisions.

Large satellites and space stations do occasionally fall back to Earth after operating in space, posing a space debris threat. Although most of the lab, which weighs 8.5 metric tons, is expected to burn up as it re-enters the earth's atmosphere, some small fragments could survive. Indeed, the fact that our sun is now experiencing low activity in its solar cycle means the atmospheric gases have been less dense at higher altitudes, allowing Tiangong-1 to stay aloft longer than originally predicted.

The Tiangong-1 project was meant to show the Chinese could, in fact, launch a space station.

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According to space experts, the odds of being hit by debris from the rogue space station are astronomical, meaning the threat to human life is minimal. Mr Aboutanios said if that happens during night time over a populated area it "will most certainly be visible, like a meteor or a shooting star". Solar flares or the speed of the solar wind can affect the atmospheric density.

Only one person is known to have been hit by space debris.

But you would have to be extremely unlucky to be taken out by a chunk of debris from Tiangong-1, according to space engineer Warwick Holmes, executive director of space engineering at the University of Sydney's School of Aerospace.

Both stations are precursors to the larger space station China is expected to build sometime in the coming decade.

While researchers have admitted that some of the space station's parts could survive re-entry, the chances of these flaming pieces of debris crashing into land were minimal, said.