The Pentagon said on Wednesday it was following the path of a Chinese rocket that is expected to make an uncontrolled entry into the atmosphere this weekend, with the risk of crashing into a populated area.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is “aware and he knows that Space Command is following, literally hunting down this rocket debris,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.
China on Thursday launched the first of three elements of its space station, the CSS, which was powered by the Long March 5B rocket that is currently being tracked.
The body of the rocket “is almost intact descending,” Kirby said, adding that it is scheduled to return around Saturday.
After separating from the space station module, the rocket began to orbit Earth in an irregular path as it slowly lost altitude, making any prediction as to where it would re-enter it almost impossible. atmosphere or fall to the ground.
It could end up shattering at the entrance, with only smaller pieces of debris falling to Earth – and even if the rocket falls from the sky almost intact, there’s a good chance it will just splash into the ocean on a planet made up of 70 percent water.
But none of these results are certain, and there is a chance that the rocket will crash into a populated area or into a ship.
Kirby said it was “too early” to know whether action, such as the destruction of space debris, can be taken if areas occupied by humans are threatened.
“We follow him. We are following him as closely as possible, ”he said. “It’s just a little too early now to know where this is going to go or what if anything can be done. “
This is not the first time that China has lost control of a spacecraft upon its return to Earth. The Tiangong-1 space laboratory disintegrated when it re-entered the atmosphere in 2018, two years after it ceased to function, although Chinese authorities have denied losing control of the ship.
© 2021 AFP