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Long March 5B, Chinese rocket debris likely to hit earth in next 24 hours
Last year, the re-entry debris from the first Long March 5B flight fell on the Ivory Coast
Next 24 hours are said to be crucial as remnants of Long March-5B, China’s largest space rocket is expected to fall on the Earth in what is called “an uncontrolled re-entry” this weekend. The Aerospace Corporation, which performs research and analysis estimated that the Long March-5B rocket is likely to enter the earth’s atmosphere around May 9 at 0302 UTC. Jonathan McDowell, Astrophysicist at the Astrophysics Center at Harvard University, who is tracking the falling portion predicted that the rocket will pass over Nelson (S Island) and Wellington (N Island), New Zealand.
In about 10 min, at 0117 UTC (1317 NZST) the rocket will pass over Nelson (S Island) and Wellington (N Island), New Zealand.
Last year, the re-entry debris from the first Long March 5B flight fell on the Ivory Coast, damaging several homes in villages. It was the largest craft to crash to earth since the US space laboratory, Skylab scattered debris over the southern Australian town of Esperance in 1979.
While China has no control over the falling debris, authorities have said most of the rocket components will likely be destroyed as it plummets.
“Most of the debris will burn up during re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere, leaving only a very small portion that may fall to the ground, which will potentially land on areas away from human activities or in the ocean,” Global Times quoted Wang Yanan, chief editor of Aerospace Knowledge magazine as saying.
He asserted that the development of rocket debris falling was carefully considered by China’s space authorities from the initial rocket design phase and the choice of a launch site, to the rocket’s lift-off attitude and its trajectory.
On April 29, China launched the Long March-5B rocket, carrying the first module of its new space station into Earth’s orbit. However, the core stage got separated from the module and has been heading towards earth since then.
China is expected to carry out more launches in its space station programme in the coming weeks as it aims to complete the space station project next year.
Once finished, the structure will have a mass of about 100 tonnes, about a quarter of the size of the International Space Station, (ISS), which is 15 years old and expected to be decommissioned in the coming years.