Out of control: the Earth will collapse toxic space station


The California-based Aerospace Corporation, a non-profit group that works with the USA government, said Tiangong-1's re-entry was unlikely to be controlled but it was highly unlikely to hit people or damage property, according to a post on its website last updated on Jan 3. In the period from 19 March to 24 April, the facility with toxic fuel on Board crashing to the Ground.

For now, ground stations are able to track Tiangong-1 as it speeds along at 16,000 miles an hour some 180 miles above Earth.

A statement from Aerospace said there was "a chance that a small amount of debris" from the module will survive re-entry and hit the Earth. The space station is believed to contain the toxic chemical hydrazine.

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The chances of re-entry were slightly higher in northern China, the Middle East, central Italy, northern Spain and the northern states of the US, New Zealand, Tasmania, parts of South America and southern Africa. But, there is no need to worry as the chances of getting hit by the debris are a million times less than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot. In fact, according to the Aerospace Corporation, despite about 5,900 tons of space debris raining down over Earth in the past half century, there only has been one reported person struck with these scraps.

An Aerospace analysis found that "the risk that an individual will be hit and injured by a piece of debris is estimated to be less than one in a one trillion". Predicting where any debris could hit is next to impossible, according to Harvard University astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell. He said fragments from a similar-sized rocket re-entered the atmosphere and landed in Peru in January.

Tiangong-1 was originally planned to be decommissioned in 2013 but China repeatedly extended the length of its mission.

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In recent months, the spacecraft has been speeding up and it is now falling by around 6km (3.7 miles) a week. But as gravity exerts its inexorable pull and the station's orbit decays, it becomes hard to predict the station's position over the planet. "It's a Chinese satellite so we don't totally know what's going on, but as far as we can tell, 2015 was the last time the Chinese government ever sent a control to it", Cambridge astronomer Matt Bothwell tells Phoebe Braithwaite at Wired.

China lost contact with its Tiangong-1, or Heavenly Palace-1, space station in 2016, and the 8.5-tonne outpost has been drifting aimlessly since.

The country's space agency has allayed public concerns that a decommissioned Chinese space station could crash into Earth on Thailand, saying the probability is only 0.1%. They broke up over Argentina, scattering debris over the town of Capitán Bermúdez.

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Unless China reveals more about what exactly is involved with the construction and descent of the Chinese space station, there's now no telling what exactly will happen when it makes contact with Earth.