Chinese space station Tiangong-1 is on a collision course with Earth, and according to to Beijing Aerospace Control Centre, could come down crashing almost anywhere on the planet between March 30 and April 4.
Tiangong-1, which means “heavenly palace” in Chinese, is 12m long with a diameter of 3.3m, orbiting at an average height of about 216.2 kms, the announcement noted, but did not disclose any re-entry location. It is impossible to name the exact re-entry location at this stage, a Chinese industry expert told state-controlled ‘Global Times’. The approximate re-entry location cannot be decided he said. Consequently, the last two hours appear to be critical, as this could help in cautioning the public about the exact location of the crash and prevent fatalities.
To recall, the Chinese space station that was launched on Sept. 29, 2011, had a design life of only two years. The heavenly vehicle successfully docked with the Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 spacecraft and undertook a series of experiments. Tiangong-1 completed its main missions following Shenzhou-10’s return itn June 2013. During its extended flight, the Skylab conducted experiments in space technology, space-earth remote sensing and space environment exploration, the office said. But on March 21, 2016, the communist nation admitted that it had lost control of its spacecraft for lack of aerospace expertise.
According to the China Manned Space Engineering Office, Tiangong-1 has officially stopped sending data. A statement issued suggests that most of the structural components of Tiangong-1 will be destroyed through burning during the course of its re-entry. The probability of endangering and causing damage to aviation and ground activities is therefore very low, the statement reads.
In the meanwhile, US space agency NASA tried to help and even attempted to steer the station into the ocean near South Africa. However, the spacecraft broke up at a different time than expected. Nonetheless, China has pledged it would give information about Tiangong-1's re-entry through news reports and communication with the United Nations.