Little or even minimal risk of damage, but not zero: a Chinese rocket is expected to return uncontrolled into the earth’s atmosphere this weekend. However, China and many experts consider the possibility of damage to the earth to be minimal.
The Asian country put the first module of its space station into orbit on April 29th thanks to a Long March 5B rocket – the most powerful and imposing Chinese launcher. It is the first part of this rocket that is currently in orbit and is expected to return to Earth. The object is gradually losing height and its point of fall is still unknown.
China has been very discreet on this matter and has not released any predictions about when the launcher will enter Earth’s atmosphere or where it should fully or partially dissolve.
For the Russian space agency Roscosmos, the entry could be made this Saturday at 23:30 GMT (20:30 GMT) in southern Indonesia. The Department of Defense estimates it will be 11:00 PM GMT (8:00 PM GMT), with a nine-hour error rate.
After a long uncomfortable silence from the Chinese area and diplomatic representatives, Beijing finally spoke on Friday. “Most of the components [do foguete] will burn upon re-entry into the atmosphere, “said Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry [a pessoas, edifícios e atividades] the bottom is extremely low, “he said.
The Chinese press said little about the event and was content to repeat on Saturday (8) what the diplomat’s spokesman had made the previous day. If parts of the rocket are left intact after they return to the atmosphere, there is a good chance they will fall into the ocean as 70% of the planet is water.
“We hope they will fall somewhere where they will not harm anyone,” said Mike Howard, a spokesman for the US Department of Defense on Friday.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said this week his country has no intention of destroying the missile. However, he indicated that China’s launch was not planned with due care.
However, the risk of the launcher’s wreck hitting an inhabited area is unlikely, according to several experts interviewed by AFP. “Given the size of the object, large pieces inevitably remain,” expects Florent Delefie, astronomer at the PSL Observatory in Paris.
However, the likelihood of impact on an inhabited area is “tiny, undoubtedly less than one in a million,” assures Nicolas Bobrinsky, head of engineering and innovation at the European Space Agency (ESA).
“There is nothing to worry about,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the United States and an expert on space debris. “But the fact that a ton of metal fragments hit the earth at hundreds of kilometers per hour is not good practice and China should review its missions to avoid it.”
Chinese space advancement
In 2020, the wreckage of another missile, the Long March, fell on villages in Ivory Coast, causing damage, but no injuries. In April 2018, the Chinese Tiangong-1 space laboratory disintegrated upon entering the atmosphere, two years after it stopped working.
China has invested billions of dollars in its space program for several decades. The Asian country sent its first astronaut into space in 2003. In early 2019, a robot landed on the other side of the moon.
Last year he brought samples from the moon and completed Beidou, his satellite navigation system (competitor to the American GPS). Beijing plans to land a robot on Mars in the coming weeks and has also announced plans to build a lunar base with Russia.
With information from AFP