Space exploration is one my favorite topics to not only write about, but to learn about! Space exploration is intriguing and important, but there’s always the dangers of a what-if statement when it comes to space.
Many people are wary of space exploration, because of the dark and mysterious secrets to be uncovered regarding what’s out there, and if we are the only ones here. Space exploration is nothing these days, because all of our major space programs have essentially mastered the technologies of space – or so we thought. Like every other learning process, we must gain knowledge through trial and error, and it seems like China might’ve overlooked a few major mistakes in their first space station, Tiangong-1. Especially considering that it’s being hurled at Earth’s surface from space at hundreds of miles per hour… Wait, what?
Yes, you read that correctly. China’s eight-ton space station, Tiangong-1 (Heavenly Palace 1) is literally falling from space. It has lost control and is expected to crash into Earth in the next seven months. It is currently falling into the Earth’s atmosphere at 160 meters per day! According to Wu Ping director of the Manned Space Engineering Office, the space station has ‘Comprehensively fulfilled its historical mission’ since being launched back in 2011 as a prototype.
The eight-ton space station is relatively small, only being able to host three-man crews, it is a mere 34 feet long and 8.5 tons in weight. Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard University, told the Guardian that 220-pound pieces could survive burning up during re-entering the atmosphere and crash somewhere.
Even slight changes in atmospheric conditions can alter the landing site “from one continent to the next,” McDowell told the Guardian. “You really can’t steer these things,” he said. “Even a couple of days before it reenters, we probably won’t know better than six or seven hours, plus or minus, when it’s going to come down. Not knowing when it’s going to come down translates as not knowing where it’s going to come down.”
Researchers aren’t exactly sure where the space station is going to land, but they are sure of it landing somewhere in the upcoming months! Hopefully, it won’t be amidst a modern-day suburb!
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