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Massive Chinese spacecraft to burn up soon in skies over Earth

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A massive 8.5-ton Chinese spacecraft will soon burn up in Earth’s atmosphere upon re-entry.

Tiangong 1, or Heavenly Palace, has had a good run in space in collecting scientific data, as well as being the temporary home to some Chinese astronauts, known as Taikonauts.

Tiangong 1 is about the size of a city bus and orbits the Earth once every 90 minutes or so.

Three Taikonauts on board the Shenzou 10 spacecraft — Nie Haisheng, Zhang Xiaoguang and Wang Yaping, the second Chinese woman in space — spent some time on the spacecraft.

It was launched Sept. 29, 2011. The Chinese used a heavy launch vehicle known as the Long March 2F rocket platform to get it into orbit.

Chinese space officials told the United Nations back in 2016 that the station’s orbit was in decline and that it was expected to re-enter the atmosphere and burn up sometime between October 2017 and April 2018.

The station is moving into a deeper part of the atmosphere, more than 186 miles above Earth. It may actually not be under control at all and the forces of nature could soon take over, adding more friction on the spacecraft and destroying it.

But questions remain: Where will it come down? Will it all burn up?

At this time, no one is certain about the date and time and may not know the answers to these questions until a few hours before the final orbits.

There is a rather famous location on Earth that serves as sort of spacecraft graveyard known as the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility. It is a remote region of ocean, between New Zealand and South America, where more than 20 spacecraft have crashed back to Earth.

The Russian space station MIR crashed there back in 2001. The International Space Station will also end up there.

You can also see Tiangong 1 in our Arizona skies on a regular basis. To do that, go to the Heavens Above website and plug in your city.

To get your very own October sky chart, visit this link.

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