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The remains of the Chinese Long March 5B rocket will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere without control this weekend, which has several agencies on alert, including the Pentagon . Authorities and experts have said that they cannot yet predict the landing site, so it could fall anywhere on Earth .
This Wednesday, John Kirby , a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin receives periodic information about the trajectory of the rocket’s core, while the United States Space Command continuously monitors it.
It is estimated that its re-entry to the planet is between May 8 and 10 . However, Kirby noted that the US military still cannot determine where the 20 tons of debris heading to our planet will fall.
“We don’t have enough information fidelity at the moment about re-entry and what that will look like to talk about specific actions one way or another. We are too far away at this point to begin speculating on what might be in view here, “ the spokesman said.
Looking forward to working with China on conducting the 9 research experiments that we jointly selected to be flown on the China Space Station. Learn more: https://t.co/jKNlL0Kn4j # AccSpace4All https://t.co/FejmkSTjJh
– UNOOSA (@UNOOSA) April 30, 2021
On April 29, the Asian country launched the Long March 5B rocket from the Wenchang Launch Center , to begin construction of the first Chinese space station. The rocket carried the central module Tianhe , or ‘Celestial Harmony’, which in the future will house astronauts, a historical milestone for China.
A group of 12 astronauts are training to travel to space and live in the Tianhe module. The first manned mission, to be named Shenzhou-12 , is scheduled for June. The station will be completed “around 2022” and will then be renamed Tiangong (Heavenly Palace).
This week, the US military began posting daily updates on the rocket’s location on its Space Track website.
How dangerous is the falling debris from the Chinese rocket?
The problem with the Long March 5B debris is that it is unclear where it will land and analysts believe it is just falling out of control. For this reason, some experts spoke of the risks of this imminent “rain of debris” .
In 2020 there was a debris fall from the first flight of the Long March 5B in West Africa. It caused damage to several houses in the Ivory Coast .
Normally, first-stage launch vehicles send their payloads into orbit and the debris immediately returns to Earth. These land on a certain landing area, head into the oceans, or tend to burn before hitting the surface.
Marco A. Barraza , Advisor to the Department of Investigation of Anomalous Aerial Phenomena of the Peruvian Air Force, shared his estimates on the fall of the rocket on Twitter.
Latest prediction for the reentry of the CZ-5B rocket body is:
May 9, 2021 02:34 UTC ± 21 hours
Reentry will be via one of the land routes shown here. It is still too early to determine a debris footprint. pic.twitter.com/xeU1hDYi4h
– Marco A. Barraza (@ marquillo727) May 5, 2021
Jonathan McDowell , an expert at the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard University , clarified that the situation “is not the end of days .”
“I don’t think people should take precautions. The risk of injury or hitting someone is quite small. It’s not negligible, it could happen, but the risk of it hitting you is incredibly small . I would not lose a second of sleep over this as a personal threat , “McDowell explained to CNN .
The specialist said that at this point it is almost impossible to pinpoint where the debris could go, given the speed at which it travels . “If you want to bet where something will land on Earth, bet on the Pacific, because the Pacific is the largest part of the Earth. It’s that simple, ”he said.
Expert Andrew Jones supports McDowell’s bet. “The debris is likely to fall into an uninhabited place like Earth’s oceans, which cover 70% of the planet,” he wrote on the Space News site.
“The odds of a person being hit by space debris are exceedingly low, estimated at between one and several trillion,” Jones said.