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China’s Tiangong-1 Space Station on a Collision Course With Earth
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It happens all the time - debris and "space junk" come crashing to Earth.
But this time, it's a little bit different – mainly because of what’s coming in (and how big it is).
China's 8.5-ton Tiangong-1 space station, which launched in 2011, is about to hit earth. Within the next few months, the massive space station, which has been spiraling out of control since last year, is going to hit earth between now and April 2018.
It’s going to crash-land because, as Chinese officials have confirmed, nobody’s controlling it. Since officials announced the loss of control, its orbit has been decaying. As it gets closer to the atmosphere, it falls faster.
According to Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, there's a small chance that pieces of the space station will make it through Earth's atmosphere intact - and if that happens, they'll hit the ground at high speeds. It's also highly unlikely that we'll have more than a few hours' notice before it hits (or much advance notice on precisely where it'll hit), but the chances of it coming down in a densely populated area are slim... but they're still there. In the past, massive pieces of space stations - like NASA's 77.5-ton Skylab made an uncontrolled descent toward our planet with no harm done.
The Tiangong-1 is small, for a space station. Just three astronauts (the Chinese call them taikonauts) can fit onboard, so it's far smaller than, say, the International Space Station. During its operation, it served as a prototype for future versions of Chinese space stations and support craft in space.
What Do You Think?
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