Wayward Chinese space station splashes into Pacific Ocean


A non-operational Chinese space lab disintegrated under intense heat as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere and plunged to a watery grave in the South Pacific, Chinese officials said.

While it does appear that a fair amount of the Tiangong-1 may have survived the enormous heat created by the friction of reentry, any debris that remained appears to have fallen harmlessly into the Pacific, "out in the middle of nowhere, which is exactly where we hoped it would land", according Roger Thompson, a senior engineering specialist with Aerospace Corp. of El Segundo, California. "Most parts were burned up in the re-entry process." the agency added.

Still, the chance that any bit of space station would hit a person was always infinitesimal - about "1 million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot", the Aerospace Corporation, a nonprofit spaceflight-research company, wrote before the reentry.

Just around 10 % of the transport measured, 8.5-ton spacecraft will probably survive being wrecked on reentry, principally its heavier parts, for example, its motors.

Multiple agencies issued predictions of the time of Tiangong-1's end, most concluding that April 1 was the most likely date.

The Tiangong-1, whose name translates as "Heavenly Palace 1", had previously docked with Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 spacecraft, and was visited by six astronauts, including two females.

Around noon Eastern time on April 1, eight hours before the craft actually crashed, the European Space Agency (ESA) had reached the limit of what it could forecast.

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The space lab ended its data service on March 16, 2016.

The literal fall of Tiangong-1 has always been tracked and anticipated, first noticed by an amateur satellite tracker in 2016, months before the Chinese government acknowledged that their space lab would come crashing back down from its uncontrolled orbit.

In mid-March of this year, it was evident that Tiangong-1 would return within a few weeks.

It was also the first time for Chinese astronauts - mission commander Jing Haipeng, crew mate Liu Wang and China's first woman astronaut Liu Yang - to board Tiangong-1.

Since the loss of contact, Tiangong-1's orbit slowly decayed.

And what goes into lower Earth orbit pretty much always comes down.

When Tiangong-1 hit the atmosphere, it was most likely traveling at about 17,000 miles per hour. As the majority of the space vessel burned upon re-entry, the remaining pieces landed in the South Pacific northwest of Tahiti.

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