WENCHANG, CHINA – APRIL 29, 2021: A long Y2 rocket dated March 5, 2017, carrying the Tianhe module for the Chinese space station, will be launched from the Wenchang spacecraft launch site in Wenchang on Thursday, April 29, 2021 south China’s Hainan Province.
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The wreckage of a Chinese rocket is expected to land back on earth this weekend. Experts are trying to figure out exactly when and where the remains will touch down.
The Long March 5B was launched on April 29th at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in China. Their mission was to put a module with living quarters into orbit for a future Chinese space station.
But after completing this task, the rocket’s body is now orbiting the earth and will soon re-enter the lower atmosphere. The uncontrolled nature of its reentry has made experts concerned about the potential impact it could have upon landing. The large piece of space debris is 98 feet long and 16.5 feet wide and weighs 21 tons.
Federally funded research firm The Aerospace Corporation posted a tweet late Friday saying that the forecast for landing on Sunday morning was eight hours on either side of 4:19 GMT. It identified an area near New Zealand’s North Island as a possible re-entry point, but said it could happen anywhere in much of the planet.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a press conference on Friday that it was “common” around the world for the upper stages of rockets to burn as they reenter the atmosphere.
“China is closely following the re-entry of the upper stage into the atmosphere. To the best of my knowledge, the upper stage of this missile has been deactivated, which means that most of its parts will burn on re-entry and the likelihood of damage to aviation or ground facilities and activities extremely low” he said, according to a translation on the ministry’s website.
On Thursday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told reporters that the United States had no plans to shoot it down, hoping it would land in a place where it would not harm anyone.
“I think this speaks to the fact that for those of us in space there is a requirement – there should be a requirement – to work in a safe and – and thoughtful mode and make sure we do These kinds of things are taken into account when planning and performing operations, “he said.
Indeed, it is common for rockets and space debris to fall back to Earth. Last year, an 18-ton Chinese rocket passed Los Angeles and New York’s Central Park before falling into the Atlantic.