A Chinese space rocket falls uncontrollably. 7 billion people at risk
The hull of the Chinese heavy carrier rocket Long March 5B has plunged into the South Pacific, the US Space Command announced on Friday just before noon. The object fell out of orbit in an uncontrolled manner, and it was unknown where its debris would hit. Earlier, due to the risk of collision of the falling fragments of the Chinese rocket with planes, air traffic over parts of Spain and France was temporarily suspended.
The entry of the remains of a Chinese rocket into the Earth’s atmosphere was confirmed by the US Space Command (SPACECOM) on Friday shortly before noon. “SPACECOM can confirm that the Long March 5B rocket of the People’s Republic of China entered the Earth’s atmosphere over the south-central Pacific Ocean on November 4 at 4:01 CET / 10:01 universal time,” the release said. This means that the rocket fell at 11:01 CET. “For details of the uncontrolled site of impact, we are sending the object back to China,” he added. An hour and a half later, the US Space Command also announced a second fragment of a Chinese rocket that fell in the Northeast Pacific.
Suspended air traffic
Previously, an uncontrolled Chinese space rocket had caused difficulties in air traffic in Europe. Due to the risk posed by the passing fragments of the Chinese rocket, air traffic over part of Spain was temporarily suspended on Friday morning. Heaven was closed for less than an hour in Catalonia, Castile and Leon, the Basque Country, Aragon, the Balearic Islands, as well as in the autonomous communities of Navarre and La Rioja. According to the Spanish services, there was a “high risk” of a collision of planes with the uncontrolled falling remains of a Chinese space rocket.
Due to the suspension of aircraft traffic, flight delays are expected at most Spanish airports. A profile presenting the work of Spanish air traffic control on Twitter posted photos of the air corridor over Spain empty of planes.
The temporary suspension of air traffic due to a falling Chinese rocket also occurred over French-owned Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea. “Due to the re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere of the cosmic remnants of the Chinese rocket, France has decided to close its airspace south of Corsica from 9:30 to 10:30,” reported the French General Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGAC).
Chinese space rocket
The Chinese Space Agency (CSMA) launched the third and final module of the Tiangong space station launched into orbit by the Long March 5B heavy carrier rocket on October 31. The module remained in outer space, however, the rocket itself was “dumped” to uncontrollably fall back to Earth. It happened because China did not equip it with the mechanisms of controlled decay from orbit – the 23-ton rocket fell in a random place and time, thus endangering people and infrastructure. It was predicted that a large part of the rocket would burn when re-entering the atmosphere, but from 10 to even 40 percent. Object mass can reach the Earth’s surface.
Ted Muelhaupt, a consultant at Aerospace, previously warned that “88 percent of the world’s population is in the danger zone, meaning 7 billion people are at risk.” However, he stressed that you should not panic about the threat of Chinese space debris, and people do not have to “change their lives” because of this. “There are much better chances of winning the lottery today than of being hit by this object,” explained Muelhaupt. “There will be no casualties at 99.5 percent, but that’s enough for the world to watch, prepare, and take preventive measures,” he added.
According to the forecasts of Aerospace Polska, it was not in the risk zone of an impact, but it was, inter alia, southern part of Europe, the Mediterranean Sea and half of the territory of the United States.
Most countries launching space rockets make sure that launchers do not pose a threat to Earth. It is ensured that they fall in an unpopulated area shortly after completing their mission, or even land in a controlled manner at designated landing sites – as the American company SpaceX does. China works differently, however, and allows its rockets to fall back to the planet in any way they like, once they reach orbit. This is the fourth time in 2 years that their mighty Long March 5B rocket has fallen this way. In 2020, its remains hit the territory of Côte d’Ivoire, in April 2021 it fell into the Indian Ocean, and in July 2022, the remains of the rocket weighing between 5.5 and 9.9 tons hit the Sulu Sea off the coast of the Philippines.
China’s behavior, which allows its heavy space rockets to fall uncontrolled onto our planet, is receiving international criticism. It is emphasized that such space debris can threaten the lives of many people. There are therefore voices calling for international regulations to prevent such events from happening. International law is currently imprecise on this point, says Marlon Sorge, director of Aerospace’s Space Waste Research Center. – The reality is that there are no real regulations, no international treaties that would regulate what is allowed in the field of space debris. So there is no legal way to control what is happening at the international level, he pointed out.
SPACECOM, Aerospace, SpaceNews, PAP, tvn24.pl
Main photo source: VCG via Getty Images
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