China’s space agency said that the almost eight-tonne Tiangong-1 will fierily re-enter the atmosphere some time between Saturday and Monday.
The 9.4-ton, school bus-size space lab is tumbling, making it almost impossible for analysts to determine the effects atmospheric drag has on its trajectory.
The station’s re-entry had stoked fear for months, however, as scientists remained unsure when the craft might land back on Earth. “At no time will a precise time/location prediction from ESA be possible”. Almost the entire United States is below 43 degrees North latitude as the cut-off point is Buffalo, New York and New Hampshire.
The only known case of a person being struck by space debris occurred in 1996 when Ms. Lottie Williams of Tulsa, Oklahoma was struck by a small piece of space debris but was not harmed in any significant way.
There will also be pieces falling off of the space station and burning up, so you may see those fragments as they fall to earth.
Tiangong loomed just 90 miles above Earth by 3:30 p.m. Sunday, according to live-tracker Heavens Above. She was not injured.
Agencies around the world who have monitored an out-of-control Chinese space station’s fall to Earth believe it has a higher chance of hitting parts of the US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
The exact area where Tiangong-1 will crash is unknown, as it is dependent on many factors.
Tiangong-1, literally, “the palace of paradise” will not stay very long in the sky.
The European Space Agency said: “One of the main reasons why it is so hard to make accurate reentry predictions, even if just a few days in advance of an expected reentry, materialised during Thursday this week”.
“Tiangong-1” was China’s first space laboratory, launched in 2011 to help the country acquire know-how to build and set into motion a larger manned station planned for the decade of 2020.
On Friday the Aerospace Corp said the debris would most likely descend into the Pacific Ocean.
Since then, the space station’s orbit has slowly decayed.
The Aerospace Corporation estimates that Tiangong-1 will re-enter somewhere between the latitudes of 43° north and south, which is a range similar to other space junk that has fallen in recent years, including Germany’s ROSAT satellite and the European Space Agency’s GOCE satellite in 2013.