By ALLIE SIMON
A Chinese space station that was launched in 2011 has begun a spontaneous crash-landing towards Earth. The station is expected to crash on Earth’s surface within the next few months.
The Tiangong-1 space laboratory, nicknamed “Heavenly Palace,” weighs 8.5 tons and has begun its downward spiral towards Earth. According to CNBC, pieces as much as 100 kg could potentially crash onto Earth’s surface.
Chinese officials say that the space station’s functions failed after two years of orbiting Earth.
Jonathon McDowell, a Harvard University astrophysicist, claims that scientists will only be able to predict where pieces of the station will come down a few hours before it happens.
Current predictions, according to ABC News, have debris from the Tiangong-1 hitting the surface anytime between March 29 to April 2. The majority of the station will supposedly burn up on it descent to Earth, but it is possible that some debris will make the journey to Earth.
Information on the falling station is extremely vague, despite that the potential landfall is just days away. Chinese officials have not given much information on what exactly happened to the station since it ceased functioning on March 6, 2016.
Instead, researchers and scientists have been making assumptions about the impact of the fall. According to CNN, researcher Alan Duffy claims that “China’s secrecy around the space mission made the risks difficult to assess.”
CNN claims that the last space station that fell to Earth landed in the ocean. The first U.S. space station that ever fell landed in a part of Australia that was hardly populated and injured no one. The falling of the Tiangong-1 is similar to the space stations that fell before it and poses little threat to humans. Researches claim that the odds that the debris will damage ground activity is “very low”.
Only few types of materials could withstand the plasma in space. If titanium, makes the journey, according to CNN, it could fall to Earth.