China’s Tiangong-1 is expected to re-enter the atmosphere and crash into Earth in just a few weeks, scientists have warned.
The Aerospace Corporation, a California-based non-profit research and development organization, predicted the 8.5-ton space station will collide into the earth’s atmosphere in the first week of April, with the error of margin at a week on either side. The European Space Agency estimates the module will crash sometime between March 24 and April 19.
Although experts have not yet determined exactly where the out-of-control module will land, an Aerospace report detailed that it will likely re-enter somewhere in the northern U.S. states, parts of South America, northern China, the Middle east, central Italy, northern Spain, New Zealand, the south of Africa or Tasmania in Australia.
Sounds ominous—but fear not. In a statement, The Aerospace Corporation said: “There is a chance that a small amount of debris from the module will survive reentry and impact the ground. Should this happen, any surviving debris would fall within a region that is a few hundred kilometres in size and centered along a point on the Earth that the station passes over.”
“When considering the worst-case location… the probability that a specific person (i.e., you) will be struck by Tiangong-1 debris is about one million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot,” it added.
Timothy Horbury, professor of physics at Imperial College London, backed up those claims. Speaking to Newsweek, he advised that the Tiangong-1 re-entering Earth’s atmosphere is “not something we should be concerned about.”
“No one has ever been hurt by a piece of debris landing from space. The earth is very large so the likelihood someone will get hurt is very low. In 1979, bits of Skylab, America’s first space station, re-entered and landed in Australia. Nobody was hurt,” he said.
Horbury added: “China shouldn’t be embarrassed about it. If they had control of it, they would fire the engine and drop it into the pacific, but these things happen.”
In 2011, the Tiangong-1—or Heavenly Palace—China’s first prototype space station, was launched, serving as both a manned laboratory and an experimental testbed to demonstrate orbital rendezvous and docking capabilities. Four years later, Beijing admitted it would not be able to perform a re-entry due to having lost control of the module. Officials claimed the station would re-enter earth’s atmosphere in late 2017, an expected time that was later extended to April 2018.