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Chinese space station set to crash-land on Earth's surface within months

  • Launched in 2011, the 8.5-ton Tiangong-1 space laboratory had originally been a symbol of Beijing's ambitious scientific bid to become a space superpower.
  • However, last year Chinese officials confirmed the country's first orbiting space station had to be scrapped after its functions failed following two years in space.
  • China's equivalent of NASA, the China National Space Administration (CNSA), has informed the United Nations that the space station had begun its descent and would be carefully monitoring its final plunge.

A Chinese space station has begun its out-of-control descent towards Earth's surface and is expected to crash-land within a few months.

Launched in 2011, the 8.5-ton Tiangong-1 space laboratory had originally been a symbol of Beijing's ambitious scientific bid to become a space superpower.

However, last year Chinese officials confirmed the country's first orbiting space station had to be scrapped after its functions failed following two years in space.

Since then, the space station known as "Heavenly Palace" has been gradually decaying and, in recent weeks, has accelerated its descent into the Earth's atmosphere.

Pieces weighing as much as 100kg may fall from the skies

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist from Harvard University, told The Guardian in an interview published Friday that he anticipated Tiangong-1 to hit Earth's surface sometime between this month and April.

While much of the craft is expected to burn up in Earth's atmosphere, McDowell also reportedly said that some parts weighing as much as 100 kilograms could crash-land to Earth with scientists unable to predict where they will come down until only hours beforehand.

China's equivalent of NASA, the China National Space Administration (CNSA), has informed the United Nations that the space station had begun its descent and would be carefully monitoring its final plunge.

The chance that anyone would be harmed by Tiangong-1's debris is considered highly unlikely.