Science

China Has Lost Control Of Tiangong-1, Admits It Will Crash Back To Earth

By Jiran , Sep 22, 2016 03:10 AM EDT
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China's large spacecraft Tiangong-1 will fall into the Earth in the latter half of 2017. This has been revealed by China's state news agency Xinhua. However, the country did not confirm whether it has lost control of Tiangong-1. They did, however, admit it will crash and burn back to Earth.

Tiangong-1's Space Mission

China's space station was launched in September 2011. Tiangong-1 or Heavenly Place - 1 was originally planned to operate for two years, according to NPR. It had docked with Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 spacecraft.

Deputy Director of the manned space engineering office Wu Ping spoke at a conference in China. She shared that it had comprehensively fulfilled its historical mission. Its data service ended in March. She also revealed that Tiangong-1 is still intact. The space lab is orbiting the Earth at an average height of 370km.

China Has Lost Control Of Tiangong-1

Rumors about China losing control of Tiangong-1 began to spread. Amateur satellite tracker Thomas Dorman of El Paso told Space.com about the situation. He said back in June that it was in a "slow roll". His observations suggest that the space lab was out of control.

He added that Tiangong-1's solar panels were in an incorrect orientation. Then, he predicted the possibility of an uncontrolled fall out of orbit. China had not commented about this. Dorman thinks China will wait until the last minute to admit the problem.

Crashing Back To Earth

According to The Washington Post, most small spacecraft incinerate completely in the upper atmosphere. The standard practice for a large spacecraft like the 34ft long Tiangong-1 is what they call a planned descent. So, an uncontrolled re-entry is rare.

Astrophysicist John McDowell told The Guardian that China's statement suggests that Tiangong-1 will be falling naturally. He means that there will be no human steering involved.

He added that its debris will most likely end up in the ocean. But if some hit the land, he assured that it wouldn't hurt anybody. McDowell admitted that it's hard to predict where the debris will fall.

Wu said that China has always highly valued the management of space debris. They assured that China will continue to monitor Tiangong-1. It will strengthen early warning for possible collision with objects. They will also release a forecast of its falling. China will report it internationally.

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