Debris from China's disintegrating rocket enters Earth's atmosphere

Debris from China's disintegrating rocket enters Earth's atmosphere
China said on Sunday that the debris from its disintegrating Long March rocket has entered the Earth's atmosphere with most of its parts burned up during its uncontrolled re-entry.

The remnants of China's Long March 5B rocket re-entered the Earth's atmosphere at 10:24 am Beijing time, China's Manned Space Engineering Office said.

Most of the debris from the rocket burned up during its re-entry, the official media quoted the office as saying.

The rocket was used by China to launch a part of its space station recently.

While most space debris objects may burn up in the atmosphere, the rocket's size - 22 tonnes - has prompted concern that its large parts could re-enter and cause damage if they hit inhabited areas.


The rocket launched the first module of China's new Tianhe space station into Earth's orbit on April 29. Its 18-tonne main segment is now in freefall and experts have said it is difficult to say precisely where and when it will re-enter the atmosphere.

The U.S. Space Command's Space Track Project said in a tweet: "Everyone else following the LongMarch5B re-entry can relax. The rocket is down."

At around 100 feet tall and weighing about 22 metric tonnes, the rocket stage is one of the largest objects to ever re-enter the Earth's atmosphere on an uncontrolled trajectory.

Its re-entry prompted international concern about where it might land. Scientists said the risk to humans was astronomically low, but it was not impossible for it to land in an inhabited area.

The European Space Agency predicted a "risk zone" that encompassed much of the world, including nearly all of the Americas, all of Africa and Australia, parts of Asia and European countries such as Italy and Greece, The Washington Post said in a report.

Scientists have described China's decision as potentially hazardous corner-cutting.

"There's clearly a significant chance that it's going to come down on land," Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told CNN on Saturday.

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