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China’s rocket debris is falling back to Earth, unsure where it will land


Out of all the things that we wish could fall from the sky, it’s definitely not a rocket – or at least parts of it. Over the weekend, China launched a 54-foot-long rocket, and its debris are bound to fall back into Earth soon. 

The Long March 5B rocket, or the “Harmony of the Heavens,” was released on April 29, located at Hainan province in China. The module entered a temporary orbit, which makes it one of the biggest uncontrolled re-entries on Earth.

China, China’s rocket debris is falling back to Earth, unsure where it will land
VCG/Getty Images

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Center at Harvard University, said to The Guardian‘It’s potentially not good.’

‘Last time they launched a Long March 5B rocket they ended up with big long rods of metal flying through the sky and damaging several buildings in the Ivory Coast,’ he shared. ‘Most of it burned up, but there were these enormous pieces of metal that hit the ground. We are very lucky no one was hurt.’

According to the ground observations by SpaceNews, the rocket dropped nearly 80km in altitude. Predicting the time and location where the Long March 5B will land is impossible since the Earth’s atmosphere will eventually pull it down.

The rocket’s orbital inclination core is 41.5 degrees meaning it passes a little farther north than New York, Madrid, and Beijing. It also passes as far south as southern Chile and Wellington, New Zealand, and it could make a re-entry at any place within this area. 

With its velocity, a slight change in the rocket’s path could significantly change where it lands. It is anticipated to return to Earth on 10 May, plus or minus two days.

The rocket launch was in relation to the 11 planned missions as part of the development of China’s space station, which is expected to be accomplished in late 2022.

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