Piece of Chinese rocket falling to Earth as uncontrolled space debris

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The Long March 5B rocket takes off from Wenchang

The Long March 5B rocket takes off from Wenchang
Photo: STR / AFP via Getty Images

A large, out of control piece of space debris crashed into the Atlantic Ocean yesterday, passing over much of the United States.

China launched the Long March 5B rocket on May 5 from the Wenchang launch site to deploy a test model of its next crew capsule. After a week in orbit, the nearly 18-metric-ton base stage re-entered the atmosphere and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, becoming the largest piece of uncontrolled space debris to re-enter the atmosphere since 1991, as Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics astronomer Jonathan McDowaune Noted on Twitter.

After launch, the rocket began a week-long orbit. The US military soon started follow the central scene of the rocket. UNE After a trajectory that took it over heavily populated areas like New York and Los Angeles, the rocket hit the ocean off the coast of West Africa. Uncontrolled returns and possible crash sites are difficult to model, as scientists do not fully understand the complex dynamics of the upper atmosphere, Holger Krag, head of ESA’s space debris office, said in a 2018 Declaration. This debris can travel great distances in no time.

The 176-foot Long March 5B rocket is designed to orbit large payloads, such as components of the next Chinese space station. This mission deployed a prototype crew capsule that would be used to bring astronauts into orbit, as well as an experimental cargo return capsule, which malfunctioned when returning to the atmosphere, reports Spaceflight Now.

All of this might remind you of the uncontrolled re-entry in 2018 of the Chinese satellite Tiangong-1, a relatively small piece of space debris that crashed into the Pacific Ocean. The Tiangong-2 rocket has returned to the atmosphere of the South Pacific as part of a controlled desorbitation Last year.

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But the central floor Long March 5B is distinguished by its size. While most of the rockets would have burned in the atmosphere, some of the densest parts could survive the descent and cause localized ground damage, McDowell told CNN.

The largest piece of space debris entering Earth’s atmosphere was the Skylab space station in 1979; the largest space station Mir returned to Earth as part of a controlled re-entry in 2001.

The Earth is really big and especially water, so the chances of death from space debris are extremely slim. Still, we are launching more and more satellites, so this is something that space agencies must increasingly consider. Weird accidents happen, however: in 1997 an Oklahoma woman was struck (but not injured) by a piece of metal from a decaying rocket.



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