China says Earth-bound space lab to offer 'splendid' show

Rosemary Collier
April 3, 2018

CHINA'S defunct Tiangong 1 space station hurtled toward earth overnight and was expected to re-enter the atmosphere within hours.

Most of the space debris will burn up on re-entry.

Holger Krag, head of the European Space Agency said: "If you're in the right place at the right times, and the sky is clear, it will be quite spectacular".

Debris from satellites, space launches and the International Space Station enters the atmosphere every few months, but only one person is known to have been hit by any of it: American woman Lottie Williams, who was struck but not injured by a falling piece of a U.S. Delta II rocket while exercising in an Oklahoma park in 1997.

Tiangong-1 - or "Heavenly Palace" - was placed in orbit in September 2011 and had been slated for a controlled re-entry, but it ceased functioning in March 2016 and space enthusiasts have been bracing for its fiery return since.

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Mr McDowell added in a separate post: "However, those of you in South America, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, China and New Guinea - or sailing the Pacific - should still pay attention".

Lower than expected solar activity is allowing Tiangong-1 to stay aloft a little longer than expected, according to the European Space Agency.

Zhu Zongpeng, the nation's chief space laboratory designer, insisted the process is in control - but hasn't given any details on what China is doing.

In contrast, Russian Federation brought down its massive Mir space station through a controlled re-entry over the Pacific Ocean in 2001.

The Chinese space lab Tiangong-1 is expected to fall back to Earth within the next 24 hours, putting an end to the almost 19,000-pound, out-of-control space craft.

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It launched Tiangong 2 in September 2012 as a second phase of its space labs, with hopes to eventually develop something more permanent.

America's 77-ton Skylab crashed through the atmosphere in 1979, spreading pieces of wreckage near the southwestern Australia city of Perth, which fined the USA $400 for littering.

An out-of-control, school bus-sized Chinese space station could plunge through the atmosphere as soon as Saturday night, potentially raining debris on parts of the United States.

It has docked with Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9, and Shenzhou-10 spacecraft and undertaken a series of tasks, making important contributions to China's manned space cause. The latter mission included China's first female astronaut, Liu Yang.

"It might be an orbit later, and then the whole window changes", Perlman said of the predictions available Friday afternoon. It plans to send a manned mission to the moon in the future.

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