Debris from the Chinese Long March 5B rocket is expected to fall back down to Earth at some point this weekend. It’s currently spiralling out of control around the Earth, and experts have absolutely no idea where it could crash land.
The Long March 5B is China’s biggest and most powerful rocket.
It launched on April 29, carrying the Tianhe core module of the new Chinese space station.
After the module was safely put into orbit, the rocket itself was supposed to steadily fall back to Earth.
But, instead, the rocket managed to reach orbital velocity all by itself, and is now circling the planet.
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An EU SST statement read: “EU Space Surveillance and Tracking (EU SST) is monitoring the re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere of large space object CZ-5B R/B (2021-035B), the core stage of the rocket that launched Tianhe – the first module of the Chinese large modular space station – on 29 April 2021.
“The EU SST network of sensors is observing the object closely, and its radars have narrowed down its re-entry window to 8-9 May.
“Object CZ-5B R/B has an estimated mass ranging from 17 to 22 tonnes and a size of about 30 m, which makes it one of the largest pieces of debris re-entering in the near past, and therefore it deserves careful monitoring.
“EU SST sensors will continue observing the object and Operations Centres will keep performing analyses to produce the best possible estimation for the expected re-entry location and time.”
Where will the out of control rocket land?
The debris is unlikely to fall any further north than about 41.5 degrees North latitude, and no further south than 41.5 degrees South latitude.
That covers a huge area of the planet, which means it could basically land anywhere south of Spain, and anywhere north of South Africa.
Most of the debris is expected to burn up as it re-enters the atmosphere, however.
But rest assured, the chances of being hit by space debris is incredibly low.
Most of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, while huge parts of land are uninhabited.
Experts are still hoping that Long March 5B lands in the ocean, but they’re still watching it carefully.
It’s still difficult to predict exactly where and when the rocket will land, however.
It’s travelling at an incredibly fast speed, and coupled with its high volatility, makes it entirely unpredictable.