Apr 02

Chinese Space Station meets fiery doom over South Pacific

Tiangong-1 is no more. China’s prototype space station, whose name translates as “Heavenly Palace 1,” met a fiery end in Earth’s atmosphere yesterday (April 1), breaking apart and burning up in the skies over the southern Pacific Ocean at about 8:16 p.m. EDT (0016 April 2 GMT), according to the U.S. Strategic Command’s Joint Force Space Component Command (JFSCC). “The JFSCC used the Space Surveillance Network sensors and their orbital analysis system to confirm Tiangong-1’s re-entry,” U.S. Air Force officials wrote in a statement. Some pieces of the school-bus-size Tiangong-1 almost certainly survived the fall, but the odds that they caused any damage or injury are extremely small: You had a less than 1-in-1-trillion chance of getting hit by a flaming chunk of the heavenly palace, according to experts with the Aerospace Corporation. By the way, if you do manage to find such a chunk of Tiangong-1, don’t pick it up or breathe in any fumes emanating from it. The space junk may be contaminated with hydrazine, a toxic rocket fuel, experts have said. Tiangong-1 was about 34 feet long by 11 feet wide (10.4 by 3.4 meters), and it weighed more than 9 tons (8 metric tons). The space lab consisted of two main parts: an “experimental module” that housed visiting astronauts and a “resource module” that accommodated Tiangong-1’s solar-energy and propulsion systems.

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