Published: Wed, April 04, 2018
Science | By Cecil Little

Defunct Chinese space station re-enters Earth's atmosphere over Pacific Ocean

Defunct Chinese space station re-enters Earth's atmosphere over Pacific Ocean

China's out-of-control space station is finally resting in a watery grave, and thankfully it didn't hit any humans as it fell back to Earth.

Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist at the Australian National University, told the Associated Press that its re-entry would have been a complete success had the space station not been spinning in its final descent.

Scott Neuman of NPR said, "The 34-foot-long, 18,000 pound Tiangong-1, or "Heavenly Palace-1" was launched in 2011 as China's first attempt at an orbiting space lab".

The Aerospace Corp. predicted Tiangong 1's re-entry would take place within two hours of either side of 12.18. According to the ESA, the members of the committee pooled their predictions of Tiangong's re-entry time and will be using the results to better understand how to predict the behavior of space debris.

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Tiangong-1's fall to Earth was confirmed by the U.S. Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC), which stated the spacecraft re-entered the atmosphere around 8:16 p.m. EDT April 1 (00:16 GMT April 2), 2018.

The station played as a host to two manned missions and filled in as a test stage for perfecting docking techniques and different other activities. While most parts of the defunct station are believed to have burned up in the Earth's atmosphere, some pieces may have survived and plummeted into the water.

Launched in 2011, Tiangong-1 was China's first space station, serving as an experimental platform for bigger projects, such as the Tiangong-2 launched in September 2016 and a future permanent Chinese space station. Earlier, Chinese space officials had promised that the disintegration of the 10.4-meter-long spacelab, upon re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere would offer a "splendid" show akin to a meteor shower. The chances of any one person being hit by debris are considered less than one in a trillion.

For the past few weeks the fate of Tiangong-1 has provided some drama.

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The 8.5-tonne Tiangong-1, with a length of 10.4 metres and maximum diametre of 3.35 metres, providing a room of 15 cubic meters for three astronauts to live and work, was launched by the Long March-2FT1 carrier rocket at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China on September 29, 2011.

Artist's rendering of China's Tiangong-1 space station.

And what goes into lower Earth orbit pretty much always comes down. The office said Tiangong-1 was "mostly burnt up in the atmosphere".

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