China’s huge ‘Long March’ rocket to “fall back” to Earth! Know more
Florida: China’s 10-storey, 23-ton Long March 5b rocket first stage is expected to make an “uncontrolled re-entry” back to Earth this weekend.
Meanwhile, the chances of it hitting a populated area are not zero.
The U.S. Space Command said it is tracking the whereabouts of the Chinese Long March 5B, a 23-ton piece of space debris, but that the exact entry point into Earth’s atmosphere cannot be pinpointed until hours before its reentry, which is expected sometime around Saturday.
According to the US government funded Aerospace Corporation, it’s expected to arrive on May 9th at 3:43 UTC (11:43 PM ET). However, that time is plus or minus 16 hours, so it’s subject to change.
Under international guidelines, rockets are supposed to descend to Earth in a controlled way — typically “guided remotely using the last of its fuel to land in a specific, remote bit of ocean”.
Despite its size as one of the 10 largest objects to ever reenter Earth’s atmosphere, scientists say it’s unlikely that the now-uncontrolled booster will actually hit someone. Given the fact that most of the planet is covered in water, there’s about a 70% chance the debris will fall into an ocean.
Whether it splashes harmlessly in the ocean or impacts land where people live, why China’s space program let this happen — again — remains unclear. And given China’s planned schedule of launches, more such uncontrolled rocket re-entries in the years to come are possible.