As Predicted, Chinese Space Lab Falls From The Sky

Lucy Bush
April 5, 2018

The out of control Chinese space station Tiangong 1 mostly burned up on re-entering the Earth's atmosphere above the South Pacific on April 2, according to Chinese space authorities.

Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist at Australian National University, said the remnants of Tiangong-1 appeared to have landed about 100km (62 miles) northwest of Tahiti.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has said ground controllers were no longer able to command Tiangong-1 to fire its on-board engines, which could have been used to determine where it re-entered Earth's atmosphere.

China's Tiangong-1 space laboratory is now in the history books after it burned up nearly entirely on re-entry above the southern Pacific Ocean. It is assumed that the space station ceased functioning due to a dysfunctional battery charger.

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The 8.5-tonne Tiangong-1, with a length of 10.4 metres and maximum diametre of 3.35 metres, providing a room of 15 cubic meters for three astronauts to live and work, was launched by the Long March-2FT1 carrier rocket at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China on September 29, 2011. Though experts believe the odds of being hit by falling debris are fewer than one in 300 trillion, it could happen.

"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.

The images considered the last of Tiangong 1 show it still intact.

The Tiangong-1 space research lab was launched in September 2011 and a crucial step in China's initiative to build its own space station.

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China's first-ever space station made a fiery return to Earth Sunday after more than six years in space. Only a small amount of debris may reach the surface.

China plans to start construction of a manned space station in 2019 with plans to launch it skyward by 2022. The first was a three-person crew in June 2012 that included the first Chinese woman in space; the second was another three-person crew in June 2013.

Ms Huang Weifen, deputy chief designer of the Astronaut Centre of China, said that the module provided "precious experience" for building a space station, Xinhua news agency reported.

Those tracking China's free-falling space station as it plunged into Earth's atmosphere and burned up over the South Pacific Ocean are labeling the results as mostly successful.

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