China’s out-of-control space station will crash back down to Earth this weekend, experts have warned.
The European Space Agency’s Space Debris Office in Darmstadt, Germany, claims that debris from Tiangong-1 will splash down between March 30 and April 2, although it said these dates were ‘highly variable.’
In terms of location, worryingly, a precise area where the debris is likely to land remains unclear.
The Space Debris Office added that ‘re-entry will take place anywhere between latitudes 43ºN and 43ºS’, and has produced a map of areas at risk.
These include countries like Spain, Turkey, India, Italy and parts of the US. The UK is not expected to be affected.
Although most of the 8.5-tonne craft will disintegrate as it enters our atmosphere, some parts of debris weighing as much as 100kg could strike Earth.
Worryingly, the space station contains a rocket fuel called hydrazine, which can cause liver and nerve damage to humans after long-term exposure.
It’s been on a collision course with Earth since China lost control of it in 2016.
“There is a chance that a small amount of Tiangong-1 debris may survive reentry and impact the ground,” explains Aerospace, a technical and scientific research development that assists NASA.
“Should this happen, any surviving debris would fall within a region that is a few hundred kilometers in size and centered along a point on the Earth that the station passes over.”
Thankfully, the probability of of a specific person being struck by the debris is about one million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot, according to Aerospace.
Aerospace added: “In the history of spaceflight, no known person has ever been harmed by reentering space debris.
“Only one person has ever been recorded as being hit by a piece of space debris and, fortunately, she was not injured.”
The Tiangong-1 space station is capable of housing three astronauts but it’s real purpose was to serve as a prototype station for China’s forthcoming space endevours.
The country was unwilling to discuss its fate, but revealed in a statement last year that it would crash down to Earth sometime between late 2017 and early 2018.
China already has its new space station Tiangong-2 (the translation of Tiangong means “Heavenly Place”) in orbit around the planet.
Further sections will be added to Tiangong-2 in future to form a modular structure, similar to the International Space Station.