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Chinese Space Station Burns Over South Pacific

Chinese Space Station Burns Over South PacificChinese Space Station Burns Over South Pacific

China’s Tiangong-1 space station re-entered the earth’s atmosphere and burnt up over the South Pacific on Monday, the Chinese space authority said.

The “vast majority” of the craft burnt up on re-entry, at around 8:15 a.m. (00:15 GMT), the authority said in a brief statement on its website, without saying exactly where any pieces might have landed. Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist at Australian National University, said the remnants of Tiangong-1 appeared to have landed about 100 km northwest of Tahiti, Reuters reported.

“Small bits definitely will have made it to the surface,” he told Reuters, adding that while about 90% would have burnt up in the atmosphere and just 10% made it to the ground, that fraction still amounted to 700 kg to 800 kg.

“Most likely the debris is in the ocean, and even if people stumbled over it, it would just look like rubbish in the ocean and be spread over a huge area of thousands of square kilometers.”

China said on Friday it was unlikely any large pieces would reach the ground.

The 10.4-meter-long Tiangong-1, or “Heavenly Palace 1”, was launched in 2011 to carry out docking and orbit experiments as part of China’s ambitious space program, which aims to place a permanent station in orbit by 2023. Decommissioning was originally planned for 2013 but the mission was repeatedly extended.

 

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