After months of speculation that China’s Tiangong-1 space station was out of control, the Chinese space agency confirmed this week that it would indeed fall to Earth in the latter half of 2017.
The space station was launched in September 2011 and taken out of service this past March.
“Based on our calculation and analysis, most parts of the space lab will burn up during falling,” Wu Ping, the deputy director of China’s manned space engineering office told Xinhua.
While most of the 10.4-metre, eight tonne module will burn up, some of it will indeed reach Earth.
Jonathan McDowell, renowned Harvard astrophysicist and space industry enthusiast told The Guardian, “There will be lumps of about 100 kg or so, still enough to give you a nasty wallop if it hit you.”
Most often space agencies will allow their satellites or spacecraft to fall back to Earth. Though they are uncontrolled, scientists can determine a rough area where it will burn up. However, in the case of Tiangong-1, many speculate that China doesn’t know where it will re-enter the atmosphere.
The space station said that it will continue to monitor the space station for possible collisions with other objects and will, if necessary, release a forecast of its demise.
In more than 50 years of space exploration, there has never been an incident of space debris killing someone.