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Chinese space station may hit Earth ‘in days’: Scientists

BEIJING: Debris from a defunct Chinese space station could crash to Earth as early as Friday, scientists monitoring it say.
The Tiangong-1 was part of China’s ambitious space programme, and the prototype for a manned station in 2022.
It was put into orbit in 2011 and five years later completed its mission, after which it was expected to fall back to Earth.
Time and place of impact are hard to predict as it is no longer controlled. The latest estimate for re-entry is between 30 March and 2 April. Most of the station is likely to burn up in the atmosphere but debris could hit Earth.
China confirmed in 2016 that it had lost contact with Tiangong-1 and could no longer control its direction, so we don’t really know where it will end up. The European Space Agency (ESA) said re-entry “will take place anywhere between 43ºN and 43ºS” which covers a vast stretch north and south of the equator.
“The station will eventually start to heat up as it gets close to 100km [from Earth],” he says.
This will lead to most of the station burning up and “it is difficult to know exactly what will survive since the makeup of the station has not been disclosed by China”.
Mr Aboutanios said if it does burn up during night time over a populated area it “will most certainly be visible, like a meteor or a shooting star”.
No. Most of the 8.5-tonne station will disintegrate as it passes through the atmosphere.
Some very dense parts such as the fuel tanks or rocket engines might not burn up completely, however even if that happened and an object did crash to Earth, the chances of it hitting a person are incredibly slim.
“Our experience is that for such large objects typically between 20% and 40% of the original mass will survive re-entry and then could be found on the ground, theoretically,” the head of the ESA’s space debris office, Holger Krag, told reporters at a recent briefing.
“However, to be injured by one of these fragments is extremely unlikely. My estimate is that the probability of being injured by one of these fragments is similar to the probability of being hit by lightning twice in the same year.”

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