China’s Tiangong-1 due for uncontrolled re-entry, soon
By Deborah Byrd in SPACE March 7, 2018
The current estimated window for Tiangong 1’s re-entry is approximately March 29 to April 9, 2018. “This is highly variable,” according to ESA.
Tiangong-1 potential re-entry area. Map showing the area between 42.8 degrees north and 42.8 degrees south latitude (in green), over which Tiangong-1 could reenter. Image via ESA CC BY-SA IGO 3.0.
China’s first space station – Tiangong-1 (Heavenly Palace 1) – was launched in 2011, and, originally, a controlled re-entry was planned. Firing the craft’s engines would have enabled controllers to allow the craft to burn up (mostly) over a large, unpopulated region of the South Pacific ocean. Any surviving pieces would have fallen into the ocean. But, in March 2016, the Tiangong-1 space station ceased functioning. Ground teams lost control of the craft, and it can no longer be commanded to fire its engines. It is, therefore, expected to make an uncontrolled reentry … soon.
The current estimated window for Tiangong-1’s re-entry is approximately March 29 to April 9, 2018. ESA calls these dates “highly variable.”
Reentry will take place anywhere between 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south (see map above). At no time will a precise time or location prediction for re-entry be possible.
The spacecraft’s main body is approximately 34 feet (10.4 meters) long.
ESA has said that Tiangong-1 will “substantially burn up” in Earth’s atmosphere. Will pieces crash to Earth? Possibly. Will they crash in populated areas? It’s not possible to say, but the chances are small that any human being will be harmed, according to a statement from Aerospace, a research organization that advises government and private enterprise on space flight. Aerospace said:
"There is a chance that a small amount of Tiangong-1 debris may survive reentry and impact the ground. Should this happen, any surviving debris would fall within a region that is a few hundred kilometers in size and centered along a point on the Earth that the station passes over."
Aerospace also warned that the space station might be carrying a highly toxic and corrosive fuel called hydrazine on board.
As of today’s date (March 7, 2018), the spacecraft is at about 155 miles (258 km) altitude. Its orbit is clearly decaying as you can see if you follow the spacecraft’s descent.
Tiangong-1 is not designed to withstand re-entry, as some spacecraft are. But it will mostly burn up when it falls, due to the extreme heat and friction generated by its high-speed passage through Earth’s atmosphere.
China's Tiangong-1 Space Lab Expected to Fall to Earth in 2 to 3 Weeks
By Leonard David, Space.com's Space Insider Columnist March 17, 2018
The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Space Debris Office in Darmstadt, Germany, has issued a new update on the expected re-entry of China’s Tiangong-1 space lab.
The new forecast, which was issued March 15, predicts that the 8.5-ton Tiangong-1 will fall back to Earth between March 30 and April 6, though it stresses that this is a rough estimate.
Re-entry of the Chinese hardware will take place anywhere between 43 degrees north latitude and 43 degrees south latitude — a huge swath that most of the world's population calls home.
"At no time will a precise time/location prediction from ESA be possible," Space Debris Office officials wrote in the update.
Tiangong-1, the first space station built by China, launched in late September 2011. The first Chinese orbital docking occurred between Tiangong-1 and an unpiloted Shenzhou spacecraft on Nov. 2, 2011. Two piloted missions visited Tiangong-1 as well: Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10, in June 2012 and June 2013, respectively.
What Should You Do If You Find a Piece of China's Crashed Space Station?
By Brandon Specktor, Senior Writer March 24, 2018
China's defunct Tiangong-1 space station is careening through low-Earth orbit right now, and is expected to reenter Earth's atmosphere sometime between March 30and April 2. Most of the 9-ton(8,500 kilograms) space station will probably burn to bits in the atmosphere — but a few thousand chunks of hot, mangled debris are still likely to survive the trip and land on our planet's surface.
Your odds of being conked on the head by any of this debris are low — about one in 292 trillion, or roughly a million times less likely than hitting the Powerball jackpot. Right now, the potential impact site of the space station covers about one-third of the planet, and a huge majority of that zone is water.
However, if by some truly cosmic coincidence you do find a piece of Tiangong-1 in your neighborhood — or if some debris washes up on a shore near you — here's some advice on your best course of action: Don't touch it.
"There are two reasons why you should not approach and touch a piece of space debris," Robert Z. Pearlman, a space historian and editor of collectSPACE.com, told Live Science. "The first is it is a health risk."
Presumably, Pearlman said, the space station is carrying all manner of hazardous materials not safe for human contact, including fuel tanks with noxious fuel inside. "Also, because this vehicle is going to be ripped apart by the process of reentry, whatever does survive to the ground could have very sharp edges," Pearlman added. "It’s not something you want to have your kids run out to touch."
Finders keepers? The second reason not to rush out and bag a chunk of Tiangong-1 is the galaxy of legal trouble it could land you in.
"According to the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, a country’s spacecraft is their legal property until they say that it’s not their legal property,” Pearlman said. "No matter where it lands — whether it lands in the ocean and sinks to the bottom of the sea, or whether it lands on their own land or some other country’s land — it belongs to that country of origin."
Part of this legal framework is for your protection, Pearlman said; it makes China legally liable for any damage to person or property that their out-of-control space station may cause. (Again, such damage is unlikely to happen.)
However, it also means that pocketing a piece of Tiangong-1 is tantamount to theft of government property. Believe it or not, people have gone to jail for this.
"Following the Challenger explosion [in 1986], there was a gentleman in the Coast Guard who kept a piece of debris for 25 years," Pearlman said. "He was the cook onboard the ship working on the investigation. While his fellow sailors were out helping with recovering pieces, he decided to use a bucket to scoop up a tile floating in the water and keep it for himself. He put it away for 25 years and then listed it on eBay as 'the ultimate Christmas gift.'"
When NASA found out, the man was arrested. He was found guilty of theft of government property, and sentenced to two years probation. He got off easy; he could have received a $10,000 fine, 10 years in prison, or a combination of both.
Space debris can become a legally legitimate souvenir, however, once the government of origin officially concludes its investigation. Until then, it's probably best to treat any pieces of Tiangong-1 like what they are: hot, mangled wreckage.
So, what should you do if you find a piece of what you think is space debris? "The best thing to do is to contact your local authorities," Pearlman said. "They will contact the federal authorities and arrange for the proper collection and appropriate return to the Chinese government."
"All that being said," Pearlman jokes, "if a piece of debris lands in my backyard — it's mine, all mine!"
China's Space Station Will Most Likely Fall to Earth on Sunday
By Rafi Letzter, Staff Writer March 30, 2018
It sure looks like the abandoned Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will put on its re-entry light show on April Fool's Day.
The European Space Agency (ESA), which has been tracking the prototype habitat through its final days and hours, now predicts it will re-enter the atmosphere sometime between late March 31 and late April 1. The Aerospace Corporation, which has also been tracking the falling station, more or less concurs, writing that the uncontrolled re-entry should happen around 2 p.m. UTC (10 a.m. EST) on April 1, give or take 16 hours.
Here's How to Watch the Chinese Space Station's Uncontrolled Plunge to Earth
By Laura Geggel, Senior Writer | March 30, 2018
It's time to grab the popcorn: The Chinese space station Tiangong-1 is plummeting back to Earth this weekend, and anyone with an internet connection can watch the fiery demise live online.
Tiangong-1 is expected to re-enter Earth's atmosphere sometime between late Saturday (March 31) and late Sunday (April 1), the European Space Agency reported, according to Live Science.
The show will likely be spectacular, and thanks to the Virtual Telescope Project and the Tenagra Observatory, people can see it live from the comfort of their homes here: www.virtualtelescope.eu/webtv/
skywalker: Very funny, ghost boy
Jun 3, 2018 14:58:58 GMT -6
lois: Casper he should come fix mine. Mine is doomed
Jun 26, 2018 21:54:27 GMT -6
spotless38: Iam back after a long break . What a couple of years I had . After what had happened I lost my brother and had to bury him and then I had caught that type A flue and I was a very sick puppy I also needed blood for the loss of it .
Jul 7, 2018 13:30:41 GMT -6
lois: Very Happy to see you Ron. Missed you. Glad you are doing better now. Sorry for your lost. I did not know your brother had passed. hugs lois
Jul 10, 2018 0:52:45 GMT -6
paulette: Ron - hope you've hit a quiet spot. Sorry for your loss.
Aug 3, 2018 10:49:30 GMT -6
lois: I picked up my phone a few days ago and I looked at the name of the caller. Boy was I surprise. It has been a couple of years. So good to hear your voice Ron. Hope you make it a habit again. love and hugs .
Aug 15, 2018 23:21:38 GMT -6
leia77: Spotless, I am glad that you are feeling better and welcome back! I too am back from a long time away...
Aug 31, 2018 2:08:32 GMT -6
jcurio: I am much relieved to see that you have been on here, Spotless! I hope that things are going much better for you now
Sept 19, 2018 16:46:42 GMT -6
jcurio: And Lois, And Lorelei!
Sept 19, 2018 16:47:07 GMT -6
casper: And Meeeeeee!!
Oct 16, 2018 18:41:31 GMT -6
lois: Sorry guys I cannot see the print. On is tiny hand computer
Oct 21, 2018 20:42:09 GMT -6
lois: Casper your page stops at page five in 2016
Nov 15, 2018 23:54:01 GMT -6
lois: How did your Halloween night go this year?
Nov 15, 2018 23:54:58 GMT -6
skywalker: He posted on the Halloween thread this year.
Nov 25, 2018 18:33:36 GMT -6
lois: Oh ok Sky I will check it out. Thanks.
Dec 21, 2018 21:45:31 GMT -6
lois: What topic was it under.
Dec 21, 2018 21:51:07 GMT -6