US Space Command has been monitoring the course of the enormous Chinese rocket since it launched on Monday to deliver a new module to China’s space station. The debris from the rocket is scheduled to fall back To earth early next week.
Launching from Hainan Island at 2:22 p.m. local time on Sunday, July 24, the 23-ton Long March 5B rocket carrying the Wentian laboratory module effectively docked with China’s orbiting outpost.
After completing its mission, the rocket began a free fall through Earth’s atmosphere, and it is still unknown where it will come to rest. This is the third time the nation has been accused of mishandling space debris from its rocket stage due to an unplanned fall. Here we have a metal thing that weighs 20 tons. It will disintegrate in the atmosphere, but many fragments, some of them extremely huge, will make it to Earth. University of British Columbia professor Michael Byers explains that although smaller pieces of space debris are unlikely to harm people, bigger pieces that drop in populated areas might cause damage. Per the study published in the journal Nature Astronomy, authored by Byers, the odds of such minor events occurring are growing as space debris accumulates, and this is particularly true in the developing regions of the world.
Can we prevent danger?
Since technology and mission designs exist to permit controlled reentries (often into isolated portions of the ocean), this danger is completely preventable. A representative for the United States Space Command stated that the agency plans to monitor the descent of the Chinese rocket. The exact time and location of the rocket stage’s reentry into Earth’s atmosphere depends on a number of factors, including the state of the atmosphere at the time of reentry, which the spokesperson said would be unknown until the stage itself reentered the atmosphere, which is expected to occur around August 1.
After launching another module on a comparable rocket last year, China came under fire for its management of space debris. Ten days after launch, its fragments splashed down in the Indian Ocean close to the Maldives.