China’s 21-ton Long March 5b rocket is orbiting the planet on a path that could lead the massive vehicle to crash into Earth in the coming days, experts warn.
The main stage was launched on Thursday to deliver the country’s first modular to the new space station, but instead of returning to a predetermined station in the ocean, there are plans to make an uncontrolled reentry – and possibly in a inhabited area.
Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer who tracks objects orbiting the Earth, told SpaceNews that the Long March 5b path takes him “a little further north than New York, Madrid and Beijing and as far south as the southern Chile and Wellington, New Zealand ”, and it could land anywhere in that range.
When the rocket stage falls to Earth, most of it could burn up in the atmosphere, but large chunks could survive and rain down on populated areas – as the range is almost 80% of the globe.
However, there are many more bodies of water along the reentry path than dirt, making it more likely that Long March 5b debris will crash somewhere.
Satellite trackers also detected the 100-foot-long and 16-foot-wide Long March 5B main stage, now referred to as “2021-035B,” traveling at more than four miles per second.
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China’s 21-ton Long March 5b rocket is orbiting the planet on a path that could lead the massive vehicle to crash into Earth in the coming days, experts warn. Pictured is the rocket when it launched last week
China launched Long March 5B on Thursday at 11:23 a.m. local time to deliver the first stage of its next space station.
The modular, named “Tianhe,” or “Harmony of the Heavens,” will become living quarters for three crew members once the massive structure is completed.
China intends to complete its Chinese space station, known as Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) by the end of 2022, state media reported after the launch of several other modules.
When completed, the Tiangong space station will orbit the Earth at an altitude of 211 to 280 miles.
The main stage was launched on Thursday to deliver the first modular of the country’s new space station, called Tianhe. Systems tracking space debris have detected the location of the main stage (red)
3D render of the Chinese Space Station, or Tiangong Space Station, as it will appear when fully built. Tianhe will be the main living quarters for three crew members. Shenzhou is an existing spacecraft that would dock at the station with the crew. Tianzhou is an existing cargo transport spacecraft
It is expected to have a mass of between 180,000 and 220,000 pounds – about a fifth of the mass of the ISS, which is 925,335 pounds.
China aims to become a major space power by 2030 to keep up with rivals including the United States, Russia and the European Space Agency, and create the most advanced space station orbiting Earth.
Chinese space station modules
– Tianhe: Basic module. Launched on April 29, 2021
– Wentian: Experimentation module I. Launch planned for 2022
– Mengtian: Experimentation module II. Launch planned for 2022
– Xuntian: Space telescope module. Launch scheduled for 2024 in co-orbit with the Chinese Space Station
The ISS, currently in orbit, has taken 10 years and more than 30 missions to assemble since the launch of the first module in 1998.
The ISS is supported by five participating space agencies – NASA (US), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe) and CSA (Canada) – but China was originally banned from participating by United States.
However, the return of the rocket could put an end to the celebration of China if the vehicle lands in a populated area.
Space debris trackers have observed it moving slowly and unpredictably toward Earth over the past few days, and the vehicle’s re-entry is believed to be one of the largest uncontrolled descents on record.
The long March 5B is approximately 100 feet long and 16 feet wide and although more than 10 tons of space debris was left in orbit for an uncontrolled reentry, McDowell said that “by current standards it is unacceptable to le let go in an uncontrolled manner ”.
China is aware of the potential for an uncontrolled descent, as Holger Krag, chief of the space security program office at the European Space Agency, told SpaceNews: “It is always difficult to assess how much surviving mass and how many. of fragments without knowing the design of the object, but a reasonable “rule of thumb” is about 20-40% of the original dry mass.
China launched Long March 5B on Thursday at 11:23 a.m. local time to deliver the first stage of its next space station. The modular, named “Tianhe”, or “Harmony of the Heavens”, will become living quarters for three crew members once the massive structure is completed.
China previously launched Long March 5b in May 2020 (pictured) to test the vehicle to send people to the moon, but that mission also ended in an uncontrolled reentry.
China previously launched Long March 5b in May 2020 to test the vehicle to send people to the moon, but that mission also ended in an uncontrolled re-entry.
The center stage of the Long March 5B rocket was sent into space on May 5 and fell to Earth a few days later, just off the coast of West Africa.
Its descent was confirmed by the 18th Space Control Squadron, a US Air Force unit that tracks space debris in Earth orbit.
The center stage of the Long March 5B rocket was sent into space on May 5 and fell to Earth a few days later, just off the coast of West Africa. Its descent was confirmed by the 18th Space Control Squadron, a US Air Force unit that tracks space debris in Earth orbit.
The force said it was notable not only for the size of the rocket, but also for the extent of the window of its uncontrolled descent.
This uncontrolled descent left trackers guessing exactly where he would end up landing – with speculation he could be in the ocean or on land in Africa, the United States or Australia.
Before splashing in the waters off the west coast of Mauritania, the rocket core flew over Los Angeles and New York.
CHINA INCREASES ITS PLAN TO BECOME A SPACE SUPERPOWER WITH THE MARS AND MOON MISSIONS
Chinese space agency officials are striving to become a space superpower alongside the United States and Russia.
They’ve already sent the first lander to explore the other side of the Moon – sharing photos of the part of our closest neighbor that we rarely see on the Chang’e-4 mission.
In November 2020, they sent the Chang’e-5 space probe to the moon to collect and return the first lunar soil samples in 45 years.
This was done in collaboration with the European Space Agency which provided tracking information for the Chinese spacecraft.
Chang’e-6 will be the first mission to explore the South Pole of the Moon and is expected to launch in 2023 or 2024.
Chang’e-7 will study the earth’s surface, composition and space environment as part of a global mission, according to the Chinese space authority, while Chang’e-8 will focus on technical analysis of the surface .
China is also reportedly working on building a moon base using 3D printing technology and sending a future crewed mission to the surface.
Mission number eight will likely lay the groundwork for this task, as it will focus on verifying the technology reserved for the project.
The CNSA is also building a space station orbiting the Earth where Chinese astronauts will conduct science experiments, similar to the ISS crew.
The agency also launched a mission to Mars in the summer of 2020 that will see them land a rover on the surface of the Red Planet in February 2021.
China is also reportedly working on a project to build a solar power generator in space, which would bring energy back to Earth and become the largest man-made object in orbit.
They also have a number of ambitious space science projects, including satellites to search for signs of gravitational waves and Earth observation spacecraft to monitor climate change.