Chinese space station expected to crash back to Earth this weekend

Watercooler
Earth_1522521016563.png

It’s not an April Fools’ Day joke.

An abandoned Chinese space station is falling to Earth and it could hit as early as this weekend.

The space station, about the size of a 18,000-pound school bus, is spinning out of control and hurling toward Earth.

Fortunately, most of it will burn up in the atmosphere. But two to eight thousand pounds of debris will come crashing down.

Click to see the current location of  Tiangong 1 space station

It could strike anywhere in the world from 43 degrees north latitude to 43 degrees south latitude – this includes North Carolina.

If you find that frightening, space expert John Logsdon of George Washington University has a word of advice.

“Relax. The chances of a piece of this thing hitting somebody on Earth are pretty slim, very slim, but not zero.”

You’re better off buying a lottery ticket.

The chances are 1 million times greater of winning the Powerball jackpot than by being hit.

China launched the Tiangong space station in 2011. Tiangong means “heavenly place” but Logsdon says, “it’s just one or more than a half a million pieces of space junk orbiting the Earth.”

The Chinese lost communication with the space station in 2016, meaning the reentry cannot be controlled.

This is just like Skylab back in 1979, where pieces came crashing down in Perth Australia.

The space station has been slowing down and when it can’t go fast enough to stay in orbit, it will reenter the earth’s atmosphere.

When the station falls to about 43 miles in altitude, it will make its fiery reentry.

So what might you see from Earth? Burning pieces of the station may be visible and last up to one minute.

No one has ever been killed by space debris and only one person has ever been hit by space debris.

In 1997 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Lottie Williams got a bruise on her shoulder from a small piece of debris from a rocket launched the year before.

Exactly when the Tiangong space station will hit the Earth is still up in the air but scientists are tracking the station and narrowing down the time.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories

WATE 6 Storm Weather School

WATE 6 On Your Side Twitter