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Defunct Chinese space lab plunges back to Earth over Pacific

BEIJING: A defunct Chinese spacecraft named tiangong-1 , almost the size of a public bus shattered and burned to dust after hitting the Earth’s atmosphere at 8-kilometers per second.

Model of tiangong-1

Pieces of it, including unknown fuel and metal components, landed northwest of Tahiti in the South Pacific at around 8:15am Beijing time (00:15 GMT) on Monday.

The chance the debris ever had of affecting a human was possible, but nearly zero.

The global sky watchers are unable to Track the event as the state has put a blanket ban on such tracking applications. Governments and companies, are planning to come up with an action plan as they want to both protect their own satellites and calm their populations.

Astronomer Jonathan McDowell, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tweeted that it appeared to have come down north-west of Tahiti.

In 2011, Tiangong-1 was launched into orbit, the flagship of China’s emerging manned space exploration programme. Over two missions, six taikonauts (Chinese astronauts) performed experiments, broadcast public lectures, imaged the ground and tested docking maneuvers and life-support systems.

“China would like to go from a big country to a powerful country in space,” Weixin said, adding: “We want to make sure our technologies are world class.”

One reason there are few public details about Tiangong-1 could be chilly relations between China’s space authorities and the US. In 2011, US lawmakers passed the Wolf amendment, banning NASA and the Office of Science and Technology Policy from collaborating with China, a communist country.

“The US, for very political reasons has shunned [China], pushing them into creating their own independent human space flight and robotic programme,” Joan Johnson Freese, author of Space as a Strategic Asset said.

“Some scientists joke that we owe our current achievements partially to the United States’ unfriendliness because we didn’t really have external support, we ended up developing the entire system ourselves.”

That chill could escalate, Freese warns, not only between the US and China, but with Russia and space newcomer India.

“I think there’s a dangerous trend going on right now regarding military space programmers’. The creation of space forces, the integration of space into mainline military capabilities, I think the potential for the Rubicon to be crossed is increasing.” Tiangong-1, Freese clarified, “was more akin to the Apollo programme” which sent United States astronauts to the moon”.

 

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