China's Tiangong-1 space lab to fall to Earth this weekend -ESA
28 March 2018, 01:04 | Katrina Lee
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The Chinese space programme, meanwhile, has forecast Tiangong-1 would fall to Earth between March 31 and April 4, according to a statement on its website dated Monday.
The Aerospace Corporation, a USA independent space research agency, says visibly incandescent objects will likely last up to a minute or more.
Many complex factors can affect the seven-year-old space station on re-entry, including its changing orientation and the varying thickness of the upper atmosphere. In 2016, China announced it had lost contact with Tiangong-1 and could therefore no longer control its direction, making predicting where it will end up hard.
With their best guess, scientists believe the wreckage of the Tiangong-1 station will fall between 43 degrees North latitude and 43 degrees South latitude - which covers a large swath of the globe.
The space station weighs in at almost 19,000 lbs and measures some 34 feet long, but not all of it will actually make it back down to Earth once it reenters our planet's atmosphere.
"Everyone thinks they're going to get hit by the Chinese space station".
China's first space lab is coming back to earth in days.
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There is a chance that a small amount of Tiangong-1 debris may survive reentry and impact the ground.
Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques (Fraunhofer FHR) are monitoring the 8.5-ton (7.7 metric tons) space station module using a tracking and imaging radar system, which they say is one of the most powerful such radars worldwide.
Aerospace Corporation, a federally funded United States space-research organization, features a re-entry dashboardon its site, which presents a map of the lab's current position and orbit and predicted time to re-entry. The delay of re-entry into the earth's atmosphere, which China said would happen in late 2017, had led some experts to suggest the space laboratory may be out of control.
However, even with this new sophisticated technology, it remains hard to estimate the debris' final landing place with a high degree of accuracy, so the exact moment of the Tiangong-1's descent will only be determined just a few hours before.
Experts say it's highly unlikely that large pieces of schoolbus-sized Tiangong-1 will survive re-entry through the atmosphere. One highlight of its life in orbit was in June 2012, when three taikonauts, or Chinese astronauts, entered the space lab, which triggered an outpouring of national pride among the Chinese masses.
The UAI has compiled a table that lists when Tiangong-1 will be passing over or near parts of Italy: find the data here.
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