Chinese space station Tiangong 1 may fall from space next month
China’s first major space station, the Tiangong 1, is set to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere sometime this year, but no one is completely certain where or when this will happen.
Since its launch back on Sept. 29, 2011, the station has completed some scientific tasks and docking maneuvers.
About the size of a large bus, the station has orbited Earth from the rather stable height of some 175 miles above sea level.
That orbit has changed over the past year, as additional drag has forced the space station to a lower altitude — one that should decay and cause the station to re-enter the atmosphere sometime next month.
Some Chinese scientists believe the station is out of control and that the re-entry location may not be known until a day prior.
Some concern existed that the spacecraft may not burn up completely and that some debris could pose a risk for anyone living within within plus- or minus-43 degrees latitude.
That is a rather larger portion of the Earth.
Some of that debris could be in the form of engine parts, heavy metal enclosures and fuel tanks.
My prediction, having watched and reported on these type of space events, is that the Tiangong 1 will burn up or splash into the ocean in the famous satellite graveyard, known as Point Nemo.
It is a desolate section of the Pacific Ocean, located at – 48.52.6 degrees latitude and 123 23.6 west longitude. Look it up on a map. It is really, really isolated!
Whenever Tiangong 1 crashes out of orbit, some Chinese history will go with it. The station was home to China’s first female crew. Liu Yang and Wang Yaping made their historic dockings in 2012 and 2013.
They were required to be married, as there was some concern that spaceflight could potentially harm fertility, though other scientists doubted that.
The Tiangong 1 spacecraft orbited Earth every 90 minutes at an orbital inclination of 42.8 degrees.
You can still see and view the Tiangong 1 spacecraft with the naked eye right here in Arizona. A satellite locator will tell you where to look in the night sky.
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