Space Station Expected To Fall To Earth This Weekend

The Chinese space station called Tiangong-1 is expected to fall to earth at some point this weekend, and nobody can do anything to save it.

By nowproducerdave on March 27, 2018
(Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

It sounds scary but is honestly, weird as it sounds, kind of routine. The Chinese Space Station called “Tiangong-1” is expected to make its descent to earth at some point during this coming weekend, with most calculations pointing towards April 1st.

The space station is about the size of a city bus, and has “wings” of solar panels. It was first launched back in 2011 as a sort of experiment, designed to showcase what can be done with manned and unmanned spacecraft, docking with equipment in space, as well as serve as a lab, just like what NASA has with the International Space Station. Crews worked on the lab in orbit for a couple years (not the same crew the whole time), and in 2013, the last crewmembers left the space station for good. It was left to float in space and just kind of sit up there. Well, sometime in 2016, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) lost their communication with their equipment on-board, and have been unable to reconnect. This will leave the space station unable to be guided to a saper landing spot, like the ocean, but it’s still very likely that it won’t injure anyone when it falls.

Fast forward a couple years, and the space station has sort of been “tumbling” around in orbit, and that actual orbit has been “decaying,” meaning it’s slowly been dropping in altitude. At this very moment, the space station is travelling at about 17,388 miles per hour (about normal). It’s hard to say how fast it’s falling, since as it falls it speeds up, but right now it’s at 131.69 miles above the earth. NASA’s International Space Station sits around 250 miles up, and travels at around 17,200mph. Will the space station damage anything when it falls? Well, they don’t know exactly where and when to a moment it will fall, but the odds of being struck by debris are less than 1 in a trillion. A majority of the space station will burn up in the atmosphere, and any chunks that make it through will likely land in rural areas, or the ocean.

Things fall from space all the time though; ones this big about once a year. A NASA satellite fell in 2011, landing in the ocean. The original space station in 1979 fell to earth, with debris landing in the open, empty areas of west Australia. NASA received a $400 fine for littering. In 1997, a lady was “hit” by a piece of debris, but it “brushed” her shoulder, and apparently wasn’t injured at all. Also, they say “falls to earth,” but it’s more planned than it sounds. Check out some more details here about how Tiangong-1 is “falling” here. Bottom line? Don’t worry about it.

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