The Long March 5B rocket, which carried a Chinese space station module, has dropped into low orbit and may crash, well, just about anywhere on Earth.
It could hit your house.
But that’s only if it doesn’t burn up entirely upon re-entry – a development that Chinese officials say is likely.
The location “cannot be pinpointed until within hours of its re-entry,” said the U.S. Space Command, which projects that to happen Saturday.
The rocket brought the Tianhe module into orbit last week, but also reached orbit itself. Thus, at 23 tons and about 100 feet long, it’s now among the bigger launches to potentially make what officials call an uncontrolled re-entry.
That is not the good kind of entry.
With an uneasy lottery ticket, major metropolitan areas are just as likely to be hit as any part of the oceans, with projections ranging from New York to New Zealand.
Can’t we just blow it out of the sky?
“We have the capability to do a lot of things, but we don’t have a plan to shoot it down as we speak,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told reporters Thursday. “We’re hopeful that it will land in a place where it won’t harm anyone. Hopefully in the ocean, or someplace like that.”
A year ago, a Long March rocket spread its re-entry debris on villages in the Ivory Coast.
China said this time likely will be different.
“As far as I understand, this type of rocket adopts a special technical design, and the vast majority of the devices will be burnt up and destructed during the re-entry process,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbing said.
China’s Global Times, published by the official People’s Daily, called the worries “western hype.”
So, don’t worry. They wrote it’s “not worth panicking about,” citing industry insiders.