New Tiangong-1 Space Station Reentry Forecast Released

How Much Space Junk Hits Earth

Twinkle twinkle little…piece of orbital debris? Credit NASA

It was a 13 day mission and astronauts spent 11 days on the space station.

The Chinese space agency's latest estimate puts re-entry between Saturday and Wednesday.

Chinese space lab Tiangong-1 - known as "Heavenly Palace" - is being tracked around the world as it plummets through the atmosphere at 16,500mph.

It's likely that most of Tiangong-1 will burn up in the atmosphere, but there's a chance fragments as large as 220 pounds survive the trip and strike the Earth.

Worldwide law and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) Rescue Agreement state that you must immediately report any space debris that may crash in your property to local authorities, as "recovered space objects belong to the owner and governments are obliged to return them", an ESA official said Sunday.

What is clear, is that it's very hard to track pieces of space junk like Tiangong.

In the words of the European Space Station: "This is highly variable".

Notices by the Chinese authorities to the United Nations dated Dec 1, 2017 and Mar 27, 2018 said remnants of the fuel and components of the space station would be burnt during re-entry and would leave no impact on earth.

The European Space Agency forecast that China's defunct Tiangong-1 craft would come down during "a window of about four hours. centred on 01:07 UTC (GMT)" on Monday.

The space station has been slowing down and when it can't go fast enough to stay in orbit, it will reenter the earth's atmosphere.

Authorities in the USA state of MI were taking no chances, however, and had put emergency teams on standby in preparation for the possibility of it landing on their patch, it said.

Predictions can tell us when that's most likely to happen - that's why the expected window for the space station's fall continues to get smaller and smaller.

Scientists said falling debris poses only a slight risk to people on the ground. The United Nations has an Office of Outer Space Affairs in which specialists in space law have drawn up treaties to cover such eventualities - but these are, by and large, created to cover government responsibilities.

"The date, time and geographic footprint of the re-entry can only be predicted with large uncertainties".

That makes this re-entry an interesting one, she says. If one of the Schenzhou spacecraft that serviced the Tiangong-1 space station could dock at the ISS (through agreement with ESA and RosCosmos), then the scientific and engineering achievement may pave the way for diplomatic and political negotiation.

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