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China Space Science

China Confirms Its Space Station Is Falling Back to Earth (popularmechanics.com) 275

The Tiangong-1, China's prototype space station which was launched in September 2011, is no longer under the control of China. PopularMechanics reports: China's Tiangong-1 space station has been orbiting the planet for about 5 years now, but recently it was decommissioned and the Chinese astronauts returned to the surface. In a press conference, China announced that the space station would be falling back to earth at some point in late 2017. Normally, a decommissioned satellite or space station would be retired by forcing it to burn up in the atmosphere. This type of burn is controlled, and most satellite re-entries are scheduled to burn up over the ocean to avoid endangering people. However, it seems that China's space agency is not sure exactly when Tiangong-1 will re-enter the atmosphere, which implies that the station has been damaged somehow and China is no longer able to control it. This is important because it means Tiangong-1 won't be able to burn up in a controlled manner. All we know is it will burn up at some point in late 2017, but it is impossible to predict exactly when or where. This means that there is a chance debris from the falling spacecraft could strike a populated area.
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China Confirms Its Space Station Is Falling Back to Earth

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  • https://cdn.meme.am/instances/... [cdn.meme.am]

    Well done China. Well done.
    • Anybody in Australia remember Skylab?

  • "Oops, I guess we're going to have to do another orbital weapons test."
  • by SeattleLawGuy ( 4561077 ) on Tuesday September 20, 2016 @12:50PM (#52924647)

    Yes, but there is also a chance that a tree limb will fall on my car precisely as I am driving under it. And a chance I am Schrodinger's cat, dreaming of being me while waiting for someone to press a button.

    The odds against the station landing in a crowd are pretty high. To get a simplified view of this, consider drawing a line in a circle around the earth and how many times it would hit a crowd.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by e r ( 2847683 )
      That's true. But engineers smart enough to get a space station into orbit are also smart enough to figure out how to burn it up safely... if they cared or were told to.

      No, I think Pseudonymous Powers' post nailed it on the head:

      "Oops, I guess we're going to have to do another orbital weapons test."

    • there is also a chance that a tree limb will fall on my car precisely as I am driving under it.

      There's a chance that a tree limb will fall on your car while you're parked under it, too, but you can minimize that risk by not parking under a tree. There's nothing we can do to not park a city in the path of falling debris. Even if the chance is very [very, very, very] low, it's still unacceptable.

  • by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Tuesday September 20, 2016 @12:56PM (#52924705)

    Take your soy sauce pills and put your helmet on.

  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Tuesday September 20, 2016 @12:57PM (#52924715) Homepage

    China Confirms Its Space Station Is Falling Back to Earth

    Given that they just launched Tiangong-2 a few days ago, it might have been nice to clarify that it's Tiangong-1 which is falling to Earth.

    • China Confirms Its Space Station Is Falling Back to Earth

      Given that they just launched Tiangong-2 a few days ago, it might have been nice to clarify that it's Tiangong-1 which is falling to Earth.

      Given that they no longer control an entire space station and have potentially put quite a few random humans in harms way, I'd say the accurate clarification and new label roughly translates into "look out below!".

      • It's not nice to have something that large deorbit out of control, but note that the earth is mostly covered with ocean and the two Space Shuttle crashes and various other things that have fallen out of the air haven't struck anyone. The largest problems so far have all been about radioisotope thermal generators that fall to earth and cause contamination. A few satellites and Apollo 13 have dropped them, but the contamination from Soviet RTGs that were used to power beacons and lighthouses has been much wor
        • It's not nice to have something that large deorbit out of control, but note that the earth is mostly covered with ocean and the two Space Shuttle crashes and various other things that have fallen out of the air haven't struck anyone...

          (sits down to a game of Russian Roulette and picks up gun)

          *click*

          *click*

          "Well, that's a relief. I feel sooo much safer now. Keep playing? Sure, why not. What could possibly go wrong?"

          When I read the word "mostly" in this context, it reminds of a redacted definition of Earth, infamously defined as mostly harmless...

  • They're not sure where it's going to land huh?

    So when it accidentally hits Tokyo with pinpoint accuracy we're all going to be astonished.

  • North Korea will save us. They've been testing their missiles for a while now. I'm sure they'd be happy to nuke it into oblivion.

  • " . . .vunce rockets go up, who cares where they come down,
    'That's not my department', says Werner Von Braun. . . . "

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • If they are smart, they will launch a set of final missions that involve attaching parachutes to the main large pieces.

    Break off the smaller, delicate things, intentionally, then program the parachutes to deploy when it hits 8 miles above the land.

    If we can parachute material onto mars, we should be able to do the same onto earth.

    I bet they could

    • by kuzb ( 724081 )

      I bet they won't, because $$$.

      • The money is why they WANT to do this.

        1) It's new, IMPORTANT engineering science. I am pretty sure t would become the test of the single largest landing craft in atmospheric conditions ever. We want large shuttle crafts, not capsules, and this would tell us how to build one.

        2) It's a huge public relations positive. It comes with bragging rights (US nor Russia ever did this), as well as "Look, we are responsible, unlike you dangerous space litterers."

        3) Once they do it successfully, they could lobby for

    • Or they can use their anti-satellite weapons [wikipedia.org] to break up the contraption into smaller (and thus more likely to burn in the atmosphere) pieces, while simultaneously:

      • Justifying their development of such weapons;
      • Testing them yet again;
      • Putting adversaries (the US) on notice, that their own satellites aren't immune either, should a push ever come to shove.

      Not that we don't already know that [nationalinterest.org].

    • Joking or ignorant?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The Day Skylab Crashed to Earth: Facts About the First U.S. Space Station’s Re-Entry [history.com]
    July 11, 2012 By Elizabeth Hanes

    On July 11, 1979, the world watched as Skylab, America’s first manned space station, hurtled toward Earth. With the massive orbiter nearing re-entry, reactions on the ground ranged from fear to celebration to commercial opportunism. On the 33rd anniversary of Skylab’s fiery return to terra firma, find out more about the causes and fallout of the crash, as well as how NASA scr

    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )

      orbiting workshop for research on scientific matters

      Skylab gave us lots of insight of space station occupancy from dealing with bone/muscle loss, designing crew quarters with vertical references, preparing daily task lists that are not so nitpicky on details.

      “Skylab parties”

      I remember news clips (yep, I'm that old) of various people entering in bomb shelters. In 1979, Air and Space magazine (or some other well known magazine) had a drawing showing structural ring and large water cylinders descending on a sleepy midwest town (oh the horror of Skylab is falling, Skylab is fal

  • Could someone dub John Belushi's Skylab sketch in Mandarin?
  • 10 times cheaper, 3 times worse...

    Seriously, they simply don't value human life as much as we do. Whereas Western governments consider a human life to be worth nearly $10 million [wsj.com], Russia, for example, values theirs at no more than $2 million [wikipedia.org]. In China, according to WorldBank study [worldbank.org], it is less than 2 mln yuan, or less than $300K.

    So, it may make sense for NASA to spend an extra $1 million to reduce a risk to one human's life by 10%. But for the Chinese to spend $1 million, the risk has to be 30+ times great

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Where did Avery Thompson got the idea that China has lost control of Tiangong-1?

    Quote from his article: http://www.popularmechanics.com/space/satellites/a22936/tiangong-falling-to-earth/,

    "In a press conference on Wednesday, Chinese officials appear to have confirmed what many observers have long suspected: that China is no longer in control of its space station."

    That "press conference" he referred to as his proof, says exactly the opposite, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2016-09/14/c_135687885.htm,

    ""Base

  • After all, they helped us rescue Matt Damon from Mars.

  • The calculations to predict when the space station will actually de-orbit are nearly as complex as weather forecasts. It's impossible to do long term, accurate predictions. As for damage, that is one possibility, though lack of fuel to do the final de-orbit burn is also a possibility. As far as suggestions to do weapons testing on it to break up the station, that is a absolutely terrible idea; it just adds to the growing orbital space junk problem.
  • Well, not at the moment - they would just have an approximation. But as we get closer, NORAD should have a very accurate idea of where and when it will re-enter.

    • by TheSync ( 5291 )

      Re-entry predictions of uncontrolled satellites are not very certain. We can say for sure what track the re-entry will occur on (generally the orbital track), but where on that track is far less certain.

      Even predictions issued 3 hours before re-entry may be affected by an along-track uncertainty of 40,000 km (i.e. one whole orbit), possibly halved during the last hour.

  • by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Tuesday September 20, 2016 @03:10PM (#52925911) Homepage Journal

    Ellen Muth hit by a toilet seat... AGAIN!

  • Anyone else remember people selling/buying skylab helmets?

  • ...Good, I hope that it falls right on Shanghai Tower!
  • Need to find my old tee shirt that had the target on it's front.

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