China’s out-of-control space station will crash to Earth over the Easter weekend, according to experts.
Engineers have refined their predictions of when the Tiangong-1 satellite will finally leave orbit. It is likely to fall sometime around 30 March and 3 April, according to the European Space Agency and the Aerospace Corporation.
The world has long been watching the satellite, also known as the Celestial Palace, since it became clear that its engineers had lost control and that it would fall to the ground. But it is difficult to predict when that will happen since western experts know so little about its path and what is on board.
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That also makes estimating the danger that it will pose when it drops very difficult, too. While it’s unlikely that the object will hit anyone when it falls, it could pose a risk once it has done so – and the Aerospace Corporation warned that people should leave the object alone once it has fallen down.
“Potentially, there may be a highly toxic and corrosive substance called hydrazine on board the spacecraft that could survive re-entry,” its website devoted to Tiangong-1 reads. ”For your safety, do not touch any debris you may find on the ground nor inhale vapours it may emit.”
It’s possible that the re-entry could be visible from the Earth, depending on the time and location that it drops down. If that happens, pieces will probably rip apart and be visible as bright lights high in the sky, some of which are likely to survive their journey through the air and land on the ground.
Authorities are still yet to declare the object as being out of control, but it’s thought that engineers will not be able to manage the object as it falls back down.
Experts warn that it is incredibly unlikely that anyone will actually be hit by the debris as it falls. Only one person is known to have ever been hit by space debris, and she was not significantly injured – Lottie Williams from Oklahoma, who was hit by a small piece of space debris in 1996.
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