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.
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.
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.
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