Defunct Chinese space station re-enters Earth's atmosphere over Pacific Ocean

Defunct Chinese space station re-enters Earth's atmosphere over Pacific Ocean

Defunct Chinese space station re-enters Earth's atmosphere over Pacific Ocean

The 60-ton station will have three parts-a core module attached to two space labs, each weighing about 20 tons-and will operate for at least 10 years, according to the manned space agency.

As Chinese space lab Tiangong-1 re-entered the Earth's atmosphere on Monday, burning up in the skies over the central region of the South Pacific, residents of the country bid the spacecraft a final farewell. US -funded Aerospace Corporation confirmed that the space station reentered in the Pacific Ocean.

"With our current understanding of the dynamics of the upper atmosphere and Europe's limited sensors, we are not able to make very precise predictions", said Holger Krag, head of ESA's Space Debris Office, in an agency blog about Tiangong-1.

Reports of an out-of-control space station hurtling towards Earth may sound like a bad April Fools' prank.

For days, astronomers had been unsure where the decommissioned space station would fall, citing several factors - including how the station tumbles and breaks up, variations in the gravitational field of a landmass or ocean, solar radiation pressure and atmospheric drag. But, in September 2016, the Chinese space officials informed that they have lost control over Tinagong-1 as the space module got disconnected from the mission control team. The chances of any one person being hit by debris are considered less than one in a trillion. Earlier forecasts had said only about 10 percent of the bus-sized, 8.5-ton spacecraft would likely survive re-entry, mainly its heavier components such as its engines. China's chief space laboratory designer, Zhu Zongpeng, has denied Tiangong was out of control, but hasn't provided specifics on what, if anything, China was doing to guide the craft's return to Earth.

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The station was a stepping stone for the Chinese space program, used to practice docking maneuvers in space - something essential for further space exploration, including the use of larger space stations in the future.

Tiangong-1 was launched on September 29, 2011 and its service ended in March 2016.

About one month later after the launching of Tiangong-1, China sent Shenzhou-8 unmanned spacecraft into orbit.

And what goes into lower Earth orbit pretty much always comes down.

But it would have been a sudden stop, as moving that quickly into thicker air is a recipe for a fireball. As the majority of the space vessel burned upon re-entry, the remaining pieces landed in the South Pacific northwest of Tahiti.

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