Summary List Placement
The Pentagon has said it is tracking a chunk of a Chinese rocket that is due to come back into the atmosphere in the coming days in an uncontrolled re-entry.
As of now, they do not know where the debris could land.
The exact point at which the rocket will enter the atmosphere will only be known within “hours” of its reentry, the US Space Command, a branch of the US military, said in a statement on Tuesday.
The rocket is currently in orbit and will be falling back to Earth uncontrolled, Insider’s Morgan McFall-Johnsen reported on Saturday.
Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell told CNN that the rocket is travelling at 18,000 miles per hour, which means a tiny change to its orbit would change its trajectory significantly.
Based on the rocket’s current orbit, the debris could fall as far north as New York, Madrid or Beijing, and as far south as southern Chile and Wellington, New Zealand, Reuters reported.
Much of the rocket is likely to burn up on re-entry, experts are concerned that some might fall back to Earth.
Although it could hit a populated area, it is far more likely that it won’t. The majority of the Earth’s surface is ocean, and much of its land is uninhabited.
The risk of the debris causing damage is “pretty small,” and it is likely they will fall into the ocean, McDowell told CNN.
But it is not null. Last time a Chinese Long March 5B rocket, similar to the one that was launched this time, reentered the atmosphere, debris reportedly landed on buildings in two villages in the Ivory Coast.
Letting debris reenter the atmosphere uncontrolled is “unacceptable,” McDowell told Space News.
“Since 1990 nothing over 10 tons has been deliberately left in orbit to reenter uncontrolled,” he said.
The core of the rocket is thought to weigh about 21 tons.
Answering a reporter’s question about the Chinese rocket on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the US is “committed to addressing the risks of growing congestion due to space debris.”
The Long March 5B rocket was carrying the first component of China’s space station, which China aims to complete by 2022.
The launch was one of 11 planned missions to build the station, Insider’s Morgan McFall-Johnsen reported on April 29.