China’s Tiangong-1 space station re-entered the earth’s atmosphere and burnt up over the middle of the South Pacific on Monday, the Chinese space authority said.
The craft re-entered the atmosphere at about 1:15am and the “vast majority” of it had burnt up upon re-entry, the authority said in a brief statement on its website.
It ended a global guessing game as experts tracked the 8.5-tonne lab’s last days in space, trying to forecast where it would re-enter the earth’s atmosphere and whether its remains might hit land.
It was expected to hit speeds of as much as 17,000 mph, turning the ageing craft into a fiery meteor.
Scientists from China’s space agency had earlier said it would make its reappearance off the southwest coast of Brazil and that it was unlikely any large pieces would reach the ground.
The China Manned Space Engineering Office said that most of the space station was destroyed as it hurtled towards the ground.
“The re-entry falling area is located in the central region of the South Pacific,” it said. “Most of the devices were ablated during the re-entry process.”
Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist at Australian National University, said Tiangong 1’s re-entry was “mostly successful” and that it would have been better if the space station had not been spinning toward Earth.
“It could have been better obviously, if it wasn’t tumbling, but it landed in the Southern Pacific Ocean and that’s kind of where you hope it would land,” he said.
“It’s been tumbling and spinning for a while, which means that when it really starts to come down it’s less predictable about what happens to it.”
There were no reports of witnesses but experts earlier said it would have made for a spectacular sight.
Holger Krag, head of ESA’s space debris office in Darmstadt, said: “It will be visible to the naked eye, even in daylight, and look like a slow-moving shooting star that splits into a few more shooting stars. You might even see a smoke trail.”
The 10.4-metre-long Tiangong-1, or “Heavenly Palace 1”, was launched in 2011 to carry out docking and orbit experiments as part of China’s ambitious space programme, which aims to place a permanent station in orbit by 2023.
It was originally planned to be decommissioned in 2013 but its mission was repeatedly extended.
China had said its re-entry would occur in late 2017 but that process was delayed, leading some experts to suggest the space laboratory is out of control.
The Chinese tabloid Global Times said on Monday worldwide media hype about the re-entry reflected overseas “envy” of China’s space industry.
“It’s normal for spacecraft to re-enter the atmosphere, yet Tiangong-1 received so much attention partly because some Western countries are trying to hype and sling mud at China’s fast-growing aerospace industry,” it said.
Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/04/02/chinas-out-of-control-tiangong-1-space-lab-expected-re-enter/