China’s Tiangong-1 Space Station has crashed in the Southern Pacific Ocean, according to the country’s space agency.
According to a source, after two years of unmanned cruising in orbit, the Tiangong-1 space station crashed on Monday at around 6 A.M. (Nepali Time) over the South Pacific and was mostly burnt up.
The Tiangong-1, also known as Heavenly Palace 1 was launched back in 2011 to carry out docking and orbit experiments as a part of China’s ambitious space program.
The space station was really only meant to last for a couple of years in space. The original plan was to fire up Tiangong-1’s engines and propel the spacecraft out of orbit so that it would safely fall into Open Ocean. Then the vehicle’s successor, Tiangong-2, would take over as China’s primary astronaut habitat.
However, China ended up extending Tiangong-1’s time in orbit because, for some reason, Tiangong-2 didn’t make it up in time. Then, in 2016, the country’s space agency informed the United Nations that it had lost control of Tiangong-1. The space station had been spinning and tumbling since then.
What goes into lower Earth orbit pretty much always comes down. It was really difficult for the space agencies to predict exactly where and when the space station – Tiangong-1 would crash. Last week, the European Space Agency mapped a potential crash zone that covered an absolutely enormous area of the Earth. It was so hard to predict because the rate at which Tiangong-1 descended was determined in part by the friction it encounters as it collides with the very top layers of the atmosphere. And the conditions there are hard to measure and hard to model in computer simulations.
The Chinese tabloid Global Times said on Monday that worldwide media hype about the re-entry reflected overseas “envy” of China’s space industry.
“It’s normal for spacecraft to re-enter the atmosphere, yet Tiangong-1 received so much attention partly because some western countries are trying to hype and sling mud at China’s fast-growing aerospace industry,” it said.
Within a year after Tiangong-1 had stopped working, China launched a second space lab, Tiangong-2, whose aim is to test capabilities for long-term human presence in space, in anticipation of a permanent space station to be launched in 2023.
While some may have worried about Tiangong-1 hitting them, there is only one recorded case of space junk actually hitting a person – and she lived to tell the tale, according to a source.
What made everyone so anxious about Tiangong-1 was its weight. When it was first launched, it weighed 18,740 pounds (8,500 kilograms), making it pretty heavy. Plus, it’s dense, too, so it wasn’t going to burn up completely in the atmosphere. Luckily, no human life was harmed as the Tiangong-1 crashed into the ocean near Tahiti.