China: Rocket debris to hit Earth reveals expert
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The Chinese rocket debris took an uncontrolled dive into the Indian Ocean on Sunday morning, China’s state media have confirmed. Astronomers worldwide have been tracking the Long March 5B core all week, speculating where it would crash. The 18-tonne debris eventually took a plunge into the atmosphere at about 3.24am BST on Sunday, May 9, and crashed west of the Maldives.
Until the last few hours before reentry, there was a concern the rocket could crash into an inhabited area.
Thankfully there have been no reports of damage or injuries but Chinese authorities have dismissed the potential posed by the rocket.
Officials said the debris would most likely burn up before reaching the ground but pieces of the rocket still had the potential to survive the fiery descent.
The Long March 5B launched on April 29 this year, carrying the core module of China’s new, manned space station.
Instead of falling back to the ground, the rocket’s core stage entered orbital velocity and began circling the planet on an unstable orbit.
Experts have slammed China’s handling of the problem, calling it a symptom of the country’s wider disregard for the rest of the world.
In a scathing opinion piece for The Hill, which was published just before the Chinese rocket crashed, Mark Whittington said a new space race is unfolding right now and China is hellbent on winning it all costs.
He said: “It says a lot about the regard that the Chinese government has for the safety of others that the core stage of the Long March 5B, which launched the Tianhe module of that country’s planned space station, is due to crash back to Earth in an uncontrolled reentry.
“The rocket will mostly burn up on reentry, but large pieces could still bombard the Earth.
“If the spent rocket lands in an inhabited area, we can mark it as yet another crime committed by Beijing against the civilized world.”
According to the Chinese Manned Space Engineering office, the rocket debris landed at a longitude 72.47 degrees east and latitude 2.65 degrees north, or right next to the Maldives.
It was the biggest atmospheric reentry of a man-made object since NASA’s Skylab was deorbited over the Indian Ocean and parts of Australia in 1979.
The US Space Command said the debris entered the atmosphere over the Arabian Peninsula but did not confirm whether the rocket hit land or water.
Senator Bill Nelson, the newly appointed NASA Administrator, has urged for more transparency from China, saying the nation has failed in its responsibility to meet “standards regarding their space debris”.
He said: “It is critical that China and all spacefaring nations and commercial entities act responsibly and transparently in space to ensure the safety, stability, security, and long-term sustainability of outer space activities.”
But Mr Whittington believes there is a bigger problem at hand, and that is China’s attitude towards the West and its desire to dominate space.
China has already placed a probe on the Moon and put the Tianwen-1 mission in Mars orbit this year.
And the country is ramping up its operations in low-Earth orbit (LEO), with another 10 launches to build, resupply, and man the space station this year.
The space station, which will be much smaller than the International Space Station (ISS), will house three astronauts for scientific purposes.
However, Mr Whittington thinks some of the research and development on the orbital lab will serve military purposes.
He said: “The prize of the 21st century space race is not bragging rights over which side plants the flag on the Moon or Mars first.
“The prize will be the ability to use the resources in space to enhance its economic, political and military power.
“The future of peace and freedom on Earth depends on China not winning that race.”
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