Chinese space station Tiangong-1 to crash to Earth this week: Experts unsure of re-entry point, but should you panic? 

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Published: March 27, 2018 11:15:03 AM

In an announcement yesterday, the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) said that the space lab has already stopped sending data and entered its last phase of life on March 16.

China’s first space station, Tiangong-1, is expected to come crashing down to Earth anytime later this week, space authorities have said. (Reuters)

China’s first space station, Tiangong-1, is expected to come crashing down to Earth anytime later this week, space authorities have said. In an announcement yesterday, the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) said that the space lab has already stopped sending data and entered its last phase of life on March 16. According to a PTI report, the space lab, orbiting at an average height of about 216.2 kms, is expected to fall back on Earth between March 31 and April 4.

However, it is expected that the space station will burn up in the atmosphere due to enormous amount of heat. The CMSEO said that Tiangong-1 will be fully burnt when it reenters the Earth’s atmosphere. However, some experts feel that the few parts of the space lab will survive the inferno and hit the Earth surface.

A Chinese aerospace expert said that it is not possible to disclose the exact re-entry location of the space lab into the atmosphere at this point of time. He added that the re-entry location can’t be disclosed until the last two hours before the space lab starts to fall based on international precedents.

The Beijing Aerospace Control Centre and others have estimated that the Tiangong-1 will probably enter the Earth atmosphere between March 31 and April 4. The China Manned Space website has been assigned to provide updates on the space lab’s return journey.

About Tiangong-1

Tiangong means ‘heavenly palace’. The lab, launched in September 2011, had a design life of 2 years and had served as living space for many Chinese astronauts including the country’s first female astronaut Liu Yang. The space station was capable of housing three astronauts.The main purpose of the lab was to serve as a prototype station for China’s forthcoming space endevours.

Tiangong-1 undertook a series of experiments and successfully docked with the Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10. While Shenzhou-8 was an uncrewed spacecraft, launched in October 2011, Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 were manned missions, in 2012 and 2013, respectively. In June 2013, when Shenzhou-10 returned, the lab had completed its main mission. On an extended flight since 2013, the lab has been involved in several experiments including those on space technology, space-earth remote sensing and space enviornment exploration.

China had in 2016 announced that they had lost control of the space station. The country has already placed its new space station Tiangong-2 in the Earth’s orbit.

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