by WorldTribune Staff, October 17, 2017
A wayward 8.5-ton Chinese space lab will soon crash to Earth, and scientists have no idea exactly where it will fall. But they said it could wound or kill anyone standing in the impact site.
Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell told The Guardian that he expects the Tiangong-1, or “Heavenly Palace”, “will come down a few months from now – late 2017 or early 2018.”
A spokesperson for China’s space agency said: “Based on our calculation and analysis, most parts of the space lab will burn up during falling.”
The station will burn up as it enters the planet’s atmosphere, but large chunks of metal are likely to fall to Earth.
“There will be lumps of about 100 [kilograms] or so, still enough to give you a nasty wallop if it hit you,” McDowell said.
Where it drops is also anybody’s guess.
“You really can’t steer these things,” McDowell said. “Even a couple of days before it re-enters we probably won’t know better than six or seven hours, plus or minus, when it’s going to come down.”
McDowell pointed out that a slight change in atmospheric conditions could change the projected landing site “from one continent to the next.”
China has said it intends to eventually put one of its citizens on the surface of the moon.
In April, Beijing said that, by 2020, it would send a craft to orbit Mars and deploy a rover to explore the surface.