China’s space station, Tiangong-1 space lab moving at 17,000mph is out of control and is likely to fall to Earth sometime between Friday and Monday and shower debris over an area covering thousands of square kilometers (miles), though the risk to people will be very small, the European Space Agency (ESA) aid. Tiangong-1 is 10.4-metre-long (34.1-foot) space station and is expected to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere somewhere between the 43rd north and south parallels, roughly between the latitudes of London in Britain and Wellington in New Zealand.
The space station is expected to re-enter the atmosphere between March 31 and April 4. China claimed it would burn up on re-entry but space experts said, for an object of that size, between 10% and 40% of it could survive the fireball, with pieces reaching land or the ocean. The agency added that the probability of a person being hit by a piece of debris from Tiangong-1 was 10 million times smaller than the chance of being hit by lightning because a large part of the planet is covered by water or is uninhabited.
ESA is hosting a test campaign by the Inter Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee, an international governmental forum, during which participants pool their predictions of the time window for re-entry and related data they collect to improve the accuracy of future predictions. The Tiangong-1, or “Heavenly Palace 1”, China’s first space lab, was launched into orbit in 2011 to carry out docking and orbit experiments as part of China’s ambitious space program, which aims to place a permanent station in orbit by 2023.
Tiangong-1 was originally planned to be decommissioned in 2013 but China has repeatedly extended the length of its mission. The delay of re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere, which China said would happen in late 2017, had led some experts to suggest the space laboratory may be out of control.