China's tumbling space station may crash near NZ

China’s first astronaut Yang Liwei

Just as wide is the potential window of where the space station will be potentially crash into Earth, with somewhere in the northern US states, parts of South America, northern China, the Middle east, central Italy, northern Spain, New Zealand, the south of Africa or Tasmania in Australia all considered viable options at the moment.

Like the Russian station, much of Tiangong-1 will burn up in the atmosphere, reports Chinese news agency Xinhua. The 8.5-tonne space station was launched in 2011. This affects all satellites and spacecraft in low-Earth orbit, like the International Space Station (ISS), for example.

According to a Guardian report, the US-funded Aerospace Corporation has predicted that the Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere in the first week of April, but the European Space Agency has a wider timeline for the module to come crashing down anywhere from March 24 to April 19, 2018. But, in 2016 the Chinese aerospace agency informed that it has lost the control over the space station and they will not be able to carry out a controlled re-entry.

Over the years, several space stations have crash-landed on Earth, but there haven't been any reports of deaths or injuries from the debris falling back from the space, except for one instance when a woman was hit by a small piece of debris but was uninjured.

The organisation says, 'If this should happen, any surviving debris would fall within a region that is a few hundred kilometres in size'.

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The likelihood of being hit by some of the Chinese space junk in the descent is statistically around a million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot, according to the Aerospace Corporation.

'Potentially, there may be a highly toxic and corrosive substance called hydrazine on board the spacecraft that could survive reentry. It is expected to enter the atmosphere between 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south latitudes.

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist from Harvard University, seems a bit less anxious about the satellite than some, but he still has a note of caution, as he told The Guardian.

It also cites that in the history of spaceflight, no one has ever been harmed from reentering space debris but does note that there has been one person struck by space debris. "Every couple of years something like this happens, but Tiangong-1 is big and dense so we need to keep an eye on it".

Used for both manned and unmanned missions, it was visited by China's first female astronaut Liu Yang in 2012. Before that, in 1991, the last uncontrolled return was Salyut 7 - or Cosmos 1686 - weighing 40 tonnes. And in 1979, NASA's Skylab space station hit Earth in an nearly completely uncontrolled descent, landing some large debris outside Perth in Australia. And now scientists have revealed that the "out-of-control" space station may crash on earth is just a few weeks now.

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