A massive Chinese missile is expected to return to Earth uncontrolled this week – and experts have no idea where its remains will land.
The approximately 30-meter-high core of the Long March 5B rocket launched the unmanned 22.5-tonne space station module « Heavenly Harmony » from Wenchang in Hainan province on Thursday, reported the Guardian.
Tianhe separated soon from the launch vehicle and entered its planned original orbit – but the core phase is likely to cause uncontrolled reentry in the densifying atmosphere, SpaceNews reported.
« It may not be good, » said Jonathan McDowell, astrophysicist at the Astrophysics Center Harvard University, the Guardian building in Ivory Coast, « said McDowell. » Most of it burned, but there were those huge pieces of metal that fell to the floor. We are very fortunate that no one was injured, ”he added.
On Tuesday, the core orbited the globe approximately every 90 minutes at approximately 17,150 mph and an altitude of approximately 186 miles. It has fallen nearly 50 miles since the weekend.
Based on its current orbit, the missile orbits north to the Big Apple, Madrid and Beijing, and south to southern Chile and Wellington, New Zealand.
It could re-enter at any point in that area, but since about 71 percent of the planet is covered with water, McDowell said the most likely outcome is that the debris will fall into the sea.
He added that some of the Parts likely to survive reentry would be the « equivalent of a small 100 mile plane crash ».
Since 1990 nothing weighing more than 10 tons has been intentionally left in orbit to re-enter uncontrollably. The core level of the long March 5B is estimated to be around 21 tons, the Guardian reported.
« What’s bad is that it’s really negligent on the part of China. At more than 10 tons, we don’t intentionally let them go out of control fall, ”said McDowell.
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