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Huge Piece of Space Junk From Chinese Rocket Could Hit the US


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With the craziness of the virus last year, some of you may have missed the story of how falling space junk from a Chinese rocket apparently narrowly missed a school as it fell back to earth in September of last year.

The story was carried in detail on Space.com:

A Chinese Long March 4B rocket successfully launched a new Earth-watching satellite Monday (Sep. 7) but the booster’s spent first stage narrowly missed a school when it fell back to Earth, witness videos show.

The Long March 4B rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in  north China, at 1:57 p.m. local time  (1:57 a.m. EDT, 0557 GMT). It carried the powerful Gaofen 11 (02) Earth observation satellite, an optical observation satellite capable of returning high resolution images, showing features as smaller than 3 feet (1 meter) across.

This was the Twitter post from All about Space back in September:

Well, apparently it’s happening again. And this time, scientists reportedly have no clue where the debris will fall.

According to CBS News:

A huge piece of space junk is about to make an uncontrolled re-entry back into Earth’s atmosphere, threatening to drop debris on a number of cities around the world in the coming days. It’s leftover from China’s first module for its new Tianhe space station — and no one knows where it will land.

The 46,000-pound Chinese rocket Long March-5B recently launched the first module for the country’s new space station into orbit. After the core separated from the rest of the rocket, it should have followed a predetermined flight path into the ocean.

But now, scientists have little idea where it will land as it orbits the planet unpredictably every 90 minutes, at about 17,324 miles per hour. As it soars through the atmosphere, appearing to tumble, it is slowly losing altitude.

Despite much speculation, no one knows where the debris will fall. It has the potential to land in the U.S., Mexico, Central America, South America, Africa, India, China or Australia.

Most likely, it will land in the ocean, which makes up over 70% of the planet, or in an uninhabited region. However, as one of the largest spacecraft to ever re-enter uncontrollably, there is still a risk that debris will land in a metropolitan area.

Space.com had more worrying details:

Plotting the trajectory of this falling rocket stage is difficult, if not impossible because there are too many uncertainties involved in calculating the effect of the atmospheric drag on the core module. Earth’s atmosphere can expand or contract with solar activity, making it hard to estimate exactly when and where the rocket will come down.

“The high speed of the rocket body means it orbits the Earth roughly every 90 minutes and so a change of just a few minutes in reentry time results in reentry point thousands of kilometers away,” SpaceNews said, adding that the object’s orbital inclination of 41.5 degrees means it “passes a little farther north than New York, Madrid and Beijing and as far south as southern Chile and Wellington, New Zealand, and could make its reentry at any point within this area.”

Its fast speed makes its landing place nearly impossible to predict, but it is expected to make landfall in the coming days.

Here’s some of the conversation taking place all over the world about this from Twitter:

Even if this falling debris misses us, it’s not over.

Apparently, China has a whole line of space rocket launches this year in preparation for its new space station.

Again, space.com had all the details:

Wednesday’s launch will be followed by a fast-paced series of cargo and crew launches aimed at completing the construction of the space station by the end of 2022.

The space-based construction effort requires 10 additional launches from 2021 through 2022: two more module launches, four crewed missions and four cargo vessel flights, as reported by China Global Television Network (CGTN).

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Three types of Long March carrier rockets will jointly launch the remaining 10 missions.

When completed, China’s orbiting outpost will form a T-shape with Tianhe at the center and two other modules, Wentian and Mengtian, on each side, according to Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China’s crewed space program.

So, not only is China beating us in the Space race but apparently now, we have to be worried about their space junk falling on our heads.

But no worries, now that Kamala is head of the Space Council, I’m sure she’ll do what it takes to keep us safe.

Right?



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