The Chinese Tianhe module flew into space last week atop the Long March 5B launcher.
The gigantic core of the rocket is now cruising around Earth in low orbit and nobody yet knows where it will land.
According to SpaceNews, the core of the Long March 5B will reenter Earth’s atmosphere sometime next week as one of the
“largest instances of uncontrolled reentry of a spacecraft and could potentially land on an inhabited area.”
By experts’ estimates, the roughly 100-foot object is orbiting Earth every 90 minutes and flies past New York, Beijing, and as far south as New Zealand at incredible speeds.
According to the website, despite the dangers involved the Tianhe or (Heavenly Harmony) is most likely to make its landing in an ocean or in an isolated area.
The Xian Symphony Orchestra and Chorus performs during the launch of the Long March 5B rocket on April 29, 2021. The rocket carries the Tianhe space station core module. China expects to complete its space station by the end of 2022. (Matjaz Tancic/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock) pic.twitter.com/10O5t8SjA3
— Tommy Gunn (@ThomasStPeter77) May 1, 2021
Spaceflight observer Jonathan McDowell said that since 1990 there was never an instance of a spacecraft over 10 tons in weight that has
“been deliberately left in orbit to reenter uncontrolled.”
Still no TLEs for the Vega launch. One more TLE for object B from the Tianhe launch, whose slow decay rate confirms it is the CZ-5B core stage pic.twitter.com/0dVkUkcpjA
— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) April 30, 2021
According to SpaceNews, when empty, the rocket’s core stage is about 21 metric tons in mass.
“It’s potentially not good,” McDowell said, as per The Guardian. “Last time they launched a Long March 5B rocket they ended up with big long rods of metal flying through the sky and damaging several buildings in the Ivory Coast.”
Really awesome pass of #Tianhe1 over eastern Iowa, followed closely by the out-of-control rocket body, labeled #CZ5B. The rocket is blinking as it's tumbling in orbit. The rocket will reenter Earth's atmosphere in the coming days. It's very large and could reach ground. #IAwx pic.twitter.com/jN5yeb9Ste
— Nick Stewart (@NStewCBS2) May 4, 2021
The module flew into space atop a Long March 5B rocket from the Wenchang Launch Center in the Hainan island province.
The Chinese space program is a source of immense national pride, and Premier Li Keqiang and other leaders including people from the military watched the launch live from the control center in Beijing.
You can track the rocket HERE.
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