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China says most of the rocket debris burned up during re-entry

The rocket was launched on April 29 with materials for China’s space station.

KHOU 11 Staff, Associated Press, Erin McHugh, Michael George (CBS News)

19:01 CDT May 8, 2021

03:15 CDT May 9, 2021

HOUSTON – An out-of-control Chinese rocket entered Earth’s atmosphere Saturday night, though it is not known if any dirt fell on land or water. It is according to the U.S. Space Command that said it re-entered around 6 p.m. 21.15 Houston time.

China’s space agency said most of the nuclear segment of the rocket burned up.

Reporter Michael George covered this story for CBS News on Saturday. His report can be seen in the video above.

The 20-ton-long March 5B rocket exploded last month, carrying pieces of “Harmony of the Heavenes,” China’s planned space station. But something went wrong and China lost control of it.

It went into orbit before coming down late on Saturday night.

The Washington Post reported that the European Space Agency predicted a “risk zone” where rocket waste could potentially go down, including all of America, all of Africa and Australia, and parts of Asia and several European countries such as Italy and Greece.

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Astrophysics Center at Harvard University, told CNN earlier this week that there is no need to worry.

“The risk that there will be some damage, or that it will hit someone, is quite small – not insignificant, it can happen – but the risk that it will hit you is incredibly small,” McDowell told CNN. “And then I would not lose a second of sleep because of a personal threat.”

He argued that the sea is still the safest bet on where the rocket debris lands because it occupies most of the earth’s surface.

Kl. 22:16 Houston time, McDowell tweeted that a “re-entry of the ocean was always statistically most likely. It looks like China won its gamble (unless we get news about waste in the Maldives).”

Normally, rocket phases are immediately discarded into a controlled demolition by friction in the Earth’s atmosphere, but the Chinese rocket section was not.

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