The Tiangong-1 Chinese space station, with a weight of around 8-and-a-half-tons, has accelerated its descent to Earth and is expected to crash in a few months, according to The Guardian.
In 2016, Chinese officials admitted that they had lost control of Tiangong-1.
Since then, China’s space agency has notified the UN that it expects the station to fall between October 2017 and April 2018.
Since then, the orbit of the station has been lower and lower as it drastically approaches our Atmosphere.
In recent weeks the station has entered denser layers of the atmosphere and began to fall faster.
Last week, the director of the manned space engineering office, Wu Ping, confirmed at a press conference that the unmanned station will fall sometime in the second half of 2017. “Based on our calculations and analysis, most parts of the space lab will burn during the fall, “she added, saying that it is unlikely to affect aviation activities or cause damage to the ground.
According to the astrophysicist of Harvard University (Massachusetts, USA), Jonathan McDowell, currently the closest point to Earth in the orbit of Tiangong-1 is “below 300 kilometers.”
Although a large part of the space lab is expected to burn in the atmosphere, McDowell believes some parts of up to 100 kilograms in weight may reach the surface of the planet.
He adds that it is impossible to calculate the precise location where the impact will occur.
The Tiangong-1 — or “heavenly palace” — space station was launched in 2011 and was used for both manned and unmanned missions.
In addition, China’s first female astronaut, Liu Yang, visited the space station in 2012.
According to space archaeology expert Alice Gorman, from Flinders University, while China will be able to monitor its descent, it won’t be able to control where the station will crash.
Acceding to Dr. Gorman, Tiangong-1 is traveling at high speed — estimated at about 27,000 kilometers per hour — and will burn up when it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere.
“When it hits the atmosphere it will start to slow down and heat up, due to friction and atmospheric compression. As it heats, it will break up into burning fragments,” she added.
Experts note that it’s very unlikely that anyone will be harmed by the crash of the space station, or that anyone would see it at all, as scientists say it’s most likely that the 8-tone space station’s remains will drop somewhere into the sea. However, it’s still possible that it would crash somewhere near people.
(H/T The Guardian)