The massive core of a Chinese rocket used last week in launching the first stage of its space station ambitions whips around Earth in low orbit, and where it lands is speculated.
SpaceNews reported that the core of the Long March 5B, which is believed to be a variant of the country’s largest rocket, will return to Earth in the next week as one of the “biggest cases of an uncontrolled spacecraft reentry.” and could potentially land on a manned ship. area. “
The website estimated that the approximately 100-foot-long object orbits Earth every 90 minutes and passes north of New York City, Beijing, and as far south as New Zealand. The report states that despite the threat, it is most likely destined to splash in one of the world’s oceans or in an isolated area.
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Jonathan McDowell, a space flight observer, told the website that since 1990 there has been no case of a spacecraft over 10 tonnes being “deliberately left in orbit to re-enter unchecked.”
The report states that the rocket’s center stage – when empty – has a mass of around 21 metric tons. (You can follow the rocket here.)
“It’s potentially not good,” McDowell said, according to the Guardian. “The last time they launched a Long March 5B rocket, they found themselves with large, long metal rods flying through the sky and damaging several buildings in Côte d’Ivoire. “
The Tianhe module, or “Heavenly Harmony,” exploded in space on top of a Long March 5B rocket from the Wenchang launch center in the southern island province of Hainan. The payload was the main module of its first permanent space station.
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The space program is a source of great national pride, and Premier Li Keqiang and other senior civilian and military leaders watched the launch live from the Beijing control center.
The Associated Press contributed to this report