A Chinese space station called the Tiangong-1 or “Heavenly Palace” has increased its out-of-control descent towards Earth and is expected to come crashing down on Earth’s surface within a few months. The Tiangong was launched in 2011 and was one of the most ambitious projects of China. It was launched to turn China into a space superpower. The Tiangong-1 was used for both types of space missions – manned as well as unmanned and was visited by Liu Yang, China’s first female astronaut in 2012. However, in 2016, Chinese officials confirmed the news that they had lost control of the space station and it was expected to crash on Earth in 2017 or 2018. The United Nations was notified by the Chinese space agency that it expects Tiangong-1 to crash between October 2017 and April 2018.
The space station’s orbit has been decaying steadily since losing contact and in recent times it has reached into dense parts of the Earth’s atmosphere and has started falling faster. According to reports, Jonathan McDowell, a well-known astrophysicist from Harvard University said, “Now that [its] perigee is below 300km and it is in the denser atmosphere, the rate of decay is getting higher. I expect it will come down a few months from now – late 2017 or early 2018.” Chinese Scientists Teleported A Particle In Space For The First Time, The Photon Sent Is A Major Breakthrough
The Earth’s atmosphere is such that most of the space station will burn up in the atmosphere and will lessen the damage but still, some of the parts that weigh up to 100kg will crash into the Earth’s surface. The chances of anyone getting harmed is remote but still, China informed the United Nations “Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space” in May and has promised that it would keep a check on the craft’s descent and inform the United Nations when it is in its last plunge. Predicting the space station’s landing is impossible according to Jonathan McDowell.
He said in 2016, “You really can’t steer these things. Even a couple of days before it re-enters we probably won’t know better than six or seven hours, plus or minus when it’s going to come down. Not knowing when it’s going to come down translates as not knowing where it’s going to come down.” He also said that a slight change in the atmosphere can change the course of the space station and make it land on a totally different continent altogether.