- China launched its Long March 5b rocket could have an uncontrolled reentry
- The rocket launched last week to deliver the first modular of a space station
- Officials found the core stage is moving slowly and uncontrolled toward Earth
- Long March 5b was initially set to land in a pre-designed spot in the ocean
- However, experts warn large chunks could fall on inhabited areas
China’s 21-ton Long March 5b rocket is orbiting the planet in a path that could lead to the massive vehicle crashing back to Earth within the next few days, experts warn.
The core stage launched Thursday to deliver the first modular of the nation’s new space station, but instead of returning to a pre-determined post in the ocean, it is predicted to make an uncontrolled reentry – and possibly in an inhabited area.
Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer who tracks objects orbiting Earth, told SpaceNews that the Long March 5b’s path takes it ‘a little farther north than New York, Madrid and Beijing and as far south as southern Chile and Wellington, New Zealand,’ and it could could land anywhere in this range.
When the rocket stage falls to Earth, most of it could burn up in the atmosphere, but large pieces could survive that could rain down on populated areas – as the range is nearly 80 percent of the globe.
However, there are far more bodies of water along the reentry path than there is land, making it a higher probability that debris from Long March 5b will splashdown somewhere.
Satellite trackers have also detected the 100-foot-long, 16-foot-wide Long March 5B core stage, now designated the name ‘2021-035B’, travelling at more than four miles per second.
China launched Long March 5B at 11:23 am local time on Thursday to deliver the first stage of its upcoming space station.
The modular, named ‘Tianhe’, or ‘Harmony of the Heavens’, will become living quarters for three crew members once the massive structure is complete.