The massive core of a Chinese rocket used last week at the launch of the first part of its space station ambitions whips around the earth in a low orbit, and where it lands, anyone is guessing.
SpaceNews reported that the core of Long March 5B, considered a variant of the country’s largest rocket, will return to Earth within the next week as one of the “biggest cases of uncontrolled re-entry of a spacecraft and could potentially land on and fined area. “
The site estimated that the approximately 100-foot-long object orbits the earth every 90 minutes and zips past north of New York, Beijing and as far south as New Zealand. The report said that despite the threat, it is likely destined to splash in one of the world̵
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Jonathan McDowell, a space observer, told the website that since 1990, there have been no cases of any spacecraft over 10 tonnes being “deliberately left in orbit to reintroduce uncontrolled.”
The report said that the core phase of the rocket – when empty – is about 21 tons in mass. (You can track the rocket here.)
“It’s potentially not good,” McDowell said according to the Guardian. “The last time they launched a Long March 5B rocket, they ended up with large long rods of metal flying through the sky, damaging several buildings in the Ivory Coast.”
The Tianhe or “Heavenly Harmony” module exploded into space on top of a long March 5B rocket from the Wenchang Launch Center in the southern island province of Hainan. The payload was the main module in its first permanent space station.
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The space program is a source of immense national pride, and Prime Minister Li Keqiang and other top civilian and military leaders watched the launch live from the Beijing Control Center.
The Associated Press contributed to this report