According to the US Space Force, the remains re-entered the atmosphere at 10:15 p.m. ET over the Arabian Peninsula. It was not known whether the debris had touched the land or the water.
The Chinese space agency said the rocket re-entered the atmosphere at 10:24 p.m. ET, but also located the landing zone just north of the Maldives. The Chinese space agency said most of the rocket was destroyed during re-entry.
After the incident, NASA criticized China for “failing to meet responsible standards” for re-entering space debris.
“Space nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth from re-entry of space objects and maximize transparency regarding these operations,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement Saturday night. “It is essential that China and all space nations and business entities act responsibly and transparently in space to ensure the long-term safety, stability, security and sustainability of space activities. “
The remains were left of China’s first module for its. China’s 23-ton Long March-5B rocket recently launched the country’s first module of the country’s new space station into orbit. Once the core was separated from the rest of the rocket, it should have followed a predetermined flight path in the ocean.
But scientists had no idea where it would land as it orbits the planet unpredictably every 90 minutes at around 17,000 miles per hour. Its fast speed made its landing spot almost impossible to predict, but it was expected to reenter the atmosphere on Saturday or Sunday.
Before the start of the school year, scientists and officials were unable to give a clear prediction of the start of the school year. The rocket had the potential to land in the United States, Mexico, Central America, South America, Africa, India, China or Australia – increasing anxiety around the world that it could cause material damage or injure people.
After its re-entry, the US Space Command’s Space Track Project tried to allay these fears, tweeter, “Everyone who follows back to school # LongMarch5B can relax. The rocket has broken down. “
“It is not at all clear why the Chinese rocket descends uncontrollably,” said William Harwood of CBS News. “US rockets (and most others) regularly fire their engines to target re-entries over the South Pacific to ensure that debris cannot land on populated areas. ”
China’s National Space Administration has faced re-entry issues in the past. In 2018,The old Chinese space station made an uncontrolled reentry and landed somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. In May of last year, another Long March-5B rocket fell into the atmosphere, eventually landing near the west coast of Africa.
The most significant reentry break in a populated area was the Columbia shuttle, which entered in February 2003. When 200,000 pounds of spacecraft shattered over Texas, a significant amount of debris hit the ground. , but there were no injuries.
Likewise, when Skylab returned home in 1978, debris fell over Western Australia, but no injuries were reported.
William Harwood contributed to this report.