China Tiangong-1 to re-enter atmosphere on Monday morning - space authority

Elias Hubbard
April 2, 2018

The 40-foot long Tiangong-1 or "Heavenly Palace", is expected to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere between Sunday night and Monday morning United States eastern time, according to the latest updates from the European Space Agency and the China Manned Space Engineering Office.

The US military appeared to confirm the re-entry with a statement from its Joint Force Space Component Command (JFSCC).

The Tiangong-1 was launched in September 2011 as a prototype for China's ultimate space goal: a permanent space station which is expected to launch around 2022. Eventually, in 2016, it had become apparent to space-watchers that the craft had stopped functioning and was no longer responding to ground control. "Most of the devices were ablated during the re-entry process".

The China Manned Space Engineering Office had said earlier Sunday that the abandoned orbital outpost would make its earthbound plunge on Monday. Debris from satellites, space launches and the International Space Station enters the atmosphere every few months, but only one person is known to have been hit by any of it: American woman Lottie Williams, who was struck but not injured by a falling piece of a U.S. Delta II rocket while exercising in an Oklahoma park in 1997.

Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist at Australian National University, said Tiangong 1's re-entry was "mostly successful" and that it would have been better if the space station had not been spinning toward Earth.

The module - which was used to practise complicated manual and automatic docking techniques - was originally meant to be used for just two years, but ended up serving considerably longer.

"It's normal for spacecraft to re-enter the atmosphere, yet Tiangong-1 received so much attention partly because some Western countries are trying to hype and sling mud at China's fast-growing aerospace industry", it said. Space enthusiasts have been bracing for its return ever since.

During its brief lifespan, it hosted Chinese astronauts on several occasions as they performed experiments and even taught a class that was broadcast into schools across the country.

Chinese media have downplayed comments by the ESA and others that the country's engineers have lost control of the lab, with reports saying that the idea it is "out of control" is an invention of foreign media. In September 2016 the Tiangong-2 space lab was successfully launched and put into orbit.

It also plans to send a manned mission to the moon in the future.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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