Chinese space station burns up re-entering atmosphere
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Chinese space station burns up re-entering atmosphere

CHINA’S Tiangong-1 space station re-entered the earth’s atmosphere and burnt up over the middle of the South Pacific on Monday, the Chinese space authority said.

The craft re-entered the atmosphere around 8:15 am Beijing time and the “vast majority” of it had burnt up upon re-entry, the authority said in a brief statement on its website

Beijing said on Friday it was unlikely any large pieces would reach the ground.

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Anyone lucky enough to have been looking at the right part of the sky when Tiangong-1 made its fiery descent will likely have seen a glowing object moving for several minutes, like a shooting star but slower.

The craft was expected to hit speeds of 27,000 km per hour and partly burn up during re-entry. The debris is expected to cover thousands of square kilometres, though the risk to people is very small, experts said before it made re-entry.

“There have been 13,000 tonnes of space hardware coming down in the whole history of spaceflight and there has not been a single casualty reported,” Holger Krag, head of European Space Agency’s Space Debris Office, told Reuters TV.


A model of the Tiangong-1 space lab module (L), the Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft (R) and three Chinese astronauts is displayed during a news conference at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, in Gansu province, China June 15, 2012. Source: Reuters/Jason Lee

The 10.4-metre-long (34.1-foot) Tiangong-1, or “Heavenly Palace 1”, was launched in 2011 to carry out docking and orbit experiments as part of China‘s ambitious space programme, which aims to place a permanent station in orbit by 2023.

It was originally planned to be decommissioned in 2013 but its mission was repeatedly extended.

China had said its re-entry would occur in late 2017 but that process was delayed, leading some experts to suggest the space laboratory is out of control.

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The Chinese tabloid Global Times said on Monday worldwide media hype about the re-entry reflected overseas “envy” of China‘s space industry.

“It’s normal for spacecraft to re-enter the atmosphere, yet Tiangong-1 received so much attention partly because some Western countries are trying to hype and sling mud at China‘s fast-growing aerospace industry,” it said.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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