After the craft lost radio connection with China'sSpace Agency after being launched in 2011, it began to slip into a lower and lower orbit, and it just started dipping into Earth's atmosphere. Aerospace Corporation predicts it will be within a week of the beginning of April, while the European Space Agency says it will come down between 24th March and 19th April.
When will Tiangong-1 crash on Earth?
Rough estimates have the space station falling to Earth as early as March 24.
Exactly where it will hit is slightly harder to predict, although experts agree it will be somewhere between latitudes of 43° north and 43° south.
The US-funded organization that advises private and government enterprises on space flight also noted that any debris surviving the crash into Earth's atmosphere would "fall within a region that is a few hundred kilometers in size". "If they had control of it, they would fire the engine and drop it into the pacific, but these things happen". It could be in northern China, northern U.S. states, New Zealand, central Italy, Tasmania in Australia or parts of South American and southern Africa. Unlike Tiangong-1, debris from NASA's Skylab was judged to be relatively likely to hit someone when it made its re-entry in 1979.
The threat from Tiangong-1's crash-landing goes beyond its unspecified location and an imprecise timeline.
Aerospace has warned that it's possible the space station is hydrazine.
There's no way of confirming at this point that the debris from the Tiangong-1 won't leave any casualties, but experts say the probabilities are one in a million. The Aerospace Corporation in a statement informed that there is a chance that some parts of the space station will survive the re-entry and will hit Earth.
So if you get hit by a piece of sky metal in the next few weeks, take cold comfort in the fact that you won the toxic Chinese space junk lottery.
"Even a couple of days before it re-enters we probably won't know better than six or seven hours, plus or minus, when it's going to come down", Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell told The Guardian. "Not knowing when it's going to come down translates as not knowing where its going to come down".
The Tiangong-1 or Heavenly Palace lab was launched in 2011 and described as a "potent political symbol" of China, according to the report in the Guardian.
It was used for both manned and unmanned missions and visited by China's first female astronaut, Liu Yang, in 2012. While the space lab was expected to end its operation in 2013, the Chinese space agency made a decision to extend its lifespan for a few more years. China announced in March 2016 that telemetry services with the space station stopped.
In 1991 the Soviet Union's 20-tonne Salyut 7 space station crashed to Earth while still docked to another 20-tonne spacecraft called Cosmos 1686.
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