Chinese space station: Tiangong-1 in pics after crash down to Earth | World | News


The defunct space lab mostly broke up on re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere above the South Pacific.

But parts of the space station made it through, crashing into the Pacific Ocean last night after it reentered the atmosphere at around 12.15am on Monday.

Astronomer Jonathan McDowell had the best guess of just where the space station landed.

He tweeted: “NW of Tahiti – it managed to miss the ’spacecraft graveyard’ which is further south!”

The USA’s Joint Force Space Component Command claimed the agency used orbit analysis technology to watch Tiangong-1’s return to Earth.

The station launched in 2011 as part of Beijing’s attempt to have a manned space lab by 2022 that could carry out docking and orbit experiments.

China’s first female astronauts, Liu Yang and Wang Yaping, visited the station in Shenzhou capsules in 2012 and 2013.

But Tiangong-1 – which translates as ‘Heavenly Palace’ – stopped working in March 2016.

Before the lab landed back on Earth, Chinese experts had indicated it might fall to Sao Paolo, Brazil.

While the European Space Agency suggested the station might land over water – which was pretty imprecise as predictions go.

However, despite the worrying thought of a gigantic space station crashing towards earth, there was never any real cause for alarm.

The chances of anyone being struck by debris from the station were “10 million times smaller than the yearly chance of being hit by lightning.”

It had been hoped that the 10m (32ft)-long Tiangong-1 lab could be removed from orbit without disruption.

Thrusters have been fired on large vehicles to drive similar stations to a remote zone in the Southern Ocean in the past.

In this instance, the loss of command links made such a peaceful outcome impossible.

Last night, space agencies from around the world – led by the European Space Agency – tracked Tiangong-1’s descent.

This was far from the largest uncontrolled re-entry object to land on Earth, however.

In 1979, the 8-tonne US space agency, ‘Skylab,’ was partially uncontrolled.

Some debris hit Western Australia, although nobody was injured by the landing.

Mr McDowell said: “By my calculations, Tiangong-1 will be the 50th most massive uncontrolled reentry from Earth orbit in history.”

China launched a second station, Tiangong-2, last year and it remains operational.

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