The Pentagon is tracking an out of control Chinese rocket expected to crash into Earth

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CNET 04 May, 2021 - 09:31pm 14 views

What did China launch into space?

Shenzhou 3 and Shenzhou 4 were launched in 2002, carrying test dummies. Following these was the successful Shenzhou 5, China's first crewed mission in space on October 15, 2003, which carried Yang Liwei in orbit for 21 hours and made China the third nation to launch a human into orbit. wikipedia.orgChinese space program

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The massive core of a Chinese rocket used last week in the launch of the first leg of its space station ambitions is whipping around Earth in a low orbit, and where it lands is anybody's guess.

SpaceNews reported that the core of the Long March 5B, which is considered a variant of the country's largest rocket, will reenter the Earth within the next week as one of the "largest instances of uncontrolled reentry of a spacecraft and could potentially land on an inhabited area."

The website estimated that the roughly 100-foot-long object is orbiting Earth every 90 minutes and zips past north of New York, Beijing and as far south as New Zealand. The report said that despite the threat, it is most likely destined to splash in one of the world's oceans or in an isolated area.

Jonathan McDowell, a spaceflight observer, told the website that since 1990, there have been no instances of any spacecraft over 10 tons that have "been deliberately left in orbit to reenter uncontrolled."

The report said the rocket’s core stage – when empty—is about 21 metric tons in mass. (You can track the rocket here.)

"It’s potentially not good," McDowell said, according to the Guardian. "Last time they launched a Long March 5B rocket they ended up with big long rods of metal flying through the sky and damaging several buildings in the Ivory Coast."

The Tianhe, or "Heavenly Harmony," module blasted into space atop a Long March 5B rocket from the Wenchang Launch Center on the southern island province of Hainan. The payload was the main module of its first permanent space station.

The space program is a source of huge national pride, and Premier Li Keqiang and other top civilian and military leaders watched the launch live from the control center in Beijing. 

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Existing tech powerless to save Earth from massive asteroid strike, space chiefs warn

Daily Star 04 May, 2021 - 11:20pm

A test to see if space boffins can save Earth from a massive asteroid strike has found... we’re doomed.

Space chiefs admitted existing technology was powerless to prevent a catastrophe, even with six months’ notice.

Although they failed to stop the collision in the few days they worked on the exercise, they said a nuclear weapon might be able to knock the rock off course – which Bruce Willis and pals do in the 1998 movie Armageddon.

During the exercise at a UN conference, scientists were told a fictional asteroid had been spotted 35million miles away.

The only realistic response would be to evacuate an area, possibly a whole continent, they decided.

Lindley Johnson, Nasa’s planetary defence officer, said: "Each time we participate in exercises of this nature we learn more about who the key players are in a disaster event and who needs to know what information and when."

SpaceX boss Elon Musk said Earth’s weak defence system was "one of many reasons why we need larger and more advanced rockets".

It came as an unmanned Chinese rocket entered our orbit, prompting fears it could smash into the planet.

Space experts have criticised China's space agency as a 20-tonne "Long March" booster could reportedly crash into Earth almost anywhere between New York and southern Chile.

The Long March 5B rocket carried the 22.5-metric-ton Tianhe module into a stable earth orbit on Thursday, April 29.

But the massive rocket is now itself in a deteriorating orbit around the earth and, according to some ground observers, is tumbling out of control.

The Long March is designed, unlike most expendable rocket first stages, to attain orbital velocity along with its payload.

That means its re-entry is less predictable.

After a previous use of the Long March core stage, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine criticised China’s space agency.

He said: "It was seemingly a successful launch until we started getting information about a reentry of a rocket body, a reentry that was really dangerous.

"It flew over population centres and it reentered Earth’s atmosphere," he added. "It could have been extremely dangerous. We’re really fortunate in the sense that it doesn’t appear to have hurt anybody."

Among the pieces of debris from that launch that survived re-entry was a metal pipe over 30 feet in length. A re-entry just 30 minutes earlier, says NASA, could have resulted in debris landing on U.S. soil.

Scientists unsure where uncontrolled rocket debris will hit Earth CBS News

msnNOW 04 May, 2021 - 11:20pm

A huge piece of space junk is about to make an uncontrolled re-entry back into Earth's atmosphere, threatening to drop debris on a number of cities around the world in the coming days. It's leftover from China's first module for its new Tianhe space station — and no one knows where it will land. 

The 46,000-pound Chinese rocket Long March-5B recently launched the first module for the country's new space station into orbit. After the core separated from the rest of the rocket, it should have followed a predetermined flight path into the ocean.

But now, scientists have little idea where it will land as it orbits the planet unpredictably every 90 minutes, at about 17,324 miles per hour. As it soars through the atmosphere, appearing to tumble, it is slowly losing altitude. 

Its fast speed makes its landing place nearly impossible to predict, but it is expected to make landfall in the coming days. 

"U.S. Space Command is aware of and tracking the location of the Chinese Long March 5B in space, but its exact entry point into the Earth's atmosphere cannot be pinpointed until within hours of its reentry, which is expected around May 8," Lt. Col. Angela Webb, U.S. Space Command Public Affairs, told CBS News.

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Beginning Tuesday, the 18th Space Control Squadron, which tracks more than 27,000 man-made objects in space, is offering daily updates on the rocket body's location. Several other agencies are also tracking its movement. 

Despite much speculation, no one knows where the debris will fall. It has the potential to land in the U.S., Mexico, Central America, South America, Africa, India, China or Australia. 

Most likely, it will land in the ocean, which makes up over 70% of the planet, or in an uninhabited region. However, as one of the largest spacecraft to ever re-enter uncontrollably, there is still a risk that debris will land in a metropolitan area.  

But, again, the odds are low. 

According to CBS News' William Harwood, "a large portion of the rocket will burn up in the atmosphere and the odds of anyone or any specific community getting hit by surviving debris are remote."

But, this didn't need to happen. 

"Why the Chinese rocket is coming down uncontrolled is not at all clear," Harwood said. "U.S. rockets (and most others) routinely fire their engines to target re-entries over the southern Pacific to ensure debris can't land on populated areas." 

The China National Space Administration has faced issues with re-entry in the past. In 2018, Tiangong 1, China's defunct space station, made an uncontrolled re-entry and landed somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. In May of last year, another Long March-5B rocket fell into the atmosphere, ultimately landing near the west coast of Africa.

The most significant re-entry breakup over a populated area was the shuttle Columbia, which entered in February 2003. When 200,000 pounds of spacecraft broke up over Texas, a significant amount of debris hit the ground, but there were no injuries. 

Similarly, when Skylab re-entered in 1978, debris fell over Western Australia, but no injuries were reported. 

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What happens when space debris crashes on Earth?

Fox News 04 May, 2021 - 11:20pm

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Professor and 'Future of Humanity' author explains significance of NASA rover touching down on the Red Planet

China's Long March 5B rocket's core stage is set to make an uncontrolled reentry into Earth's atmosphere in the next few days. 

The 100-foot-long object is orbiting the blue marble every 90 minutes, passing north of New York and Beijing and as far south as Chile and New Zealand.

While the main stage released the Tianhe, or "Heavenly Harmony," module – the makings of the country's first permanent space station – shortly after the eight-minute mark of the mission, Gizmodo reported that the core stage stayed in space and did not perform a controlled deorbit. 

Although rocket manufacturers typically take precautionary measures to avoid falling rocket debris, Inverse says the Long March 5B rocket stage is built without a steering booster, stabilization system and restartable engine.

Space debris hurtling back toward Earth is a fairly common occurrence. 

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule had a close encounter with some orbiting junk last month, though it turned out there was no real threat.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS) says that, on average, between 200 and 400 tracked objects enter Earth's atmosphere annually.

Most pieces of space debris – continuously amassing since the satellite Sputnik 1 escaped Earth's gravitational pull on Oct. 4, 1957 – burn up in the Earth's atmosphere on their descent.

Of the millions of pieces of space debris estimated to be orbiting the planet, roughly 30,000 are larger than a softball and only around 1,000 are actual spacecraft, NESDIS reports.

The objects are monitored by the U.S. military's Space Surveillance Network (SSN) and NASA's Orbital Debris Program Office using radar, telescopes and other space-based systems.

Even the smallest debris orbits at a high velocity, which can also be harmful to satellites.

National Geographic reports that most space junk is in lower Earth orbit, around 1,250 miles above the planet's surface.

Space.com says that how long a piece of space debris takes to fall back to Earth depends on its altitude and that debris left in orbits below 370 miles normally fall back to Earth within a period of several years.

Components that survive the fall are likely to hit bodies of water, as Earth's oceans cover 70% of the planet's surface

Data recorded over a period of more than 50 years shows an average of one piece of debris fell back to Earth each day, though there have been no confirmed deaths or serious injuries from people being hit by space debris.

However, space debris can, of course, cause some damage depending on where it lands. 

In 1979, NASA's almost 100-ton Skylab fell on a small Australian town, the Soviet Union's 43-ton Salyut-7 space station landed in Argentina in 1991 and in May of last year another China Long March 5B rocket released debris over Africa's Ivory Coast after spending a week in low Earth orbit.

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