In 2016, the China National Space Administration lost control of its first space station, Tiangong-1, launched in 2011. That uncontrollable, bus-sized space object orbiting around our planet was no biggie until — plot twist! — its orbit started decaying.
Tiangong-1 is planned to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere between March 30th and April 2nd and fall onto our planet. Despite being monitored closely by The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Orbital and Debris Reentry Studies (CORDS), it is quite difficult to determine where the surviving debris of the space station will land because no one seems to have any control over its trajectory.
But, there’s some good news. First, there is no crew on board. Second, the odds of space junk hitting you are less than one in 1 trillion, but if you are very much out of luck and get injured or have your property damaged by space debris over Easter weekend, know that the launching nation (China) is liable. Third, you may be able to see the whole thing happening.
Depending on many different factors (your location included), you may be able to see the space station’s reentry. Aerospace.org explains that “visibly incandescent objects from this reentry will likely last tens of seconds (up to a minute or more)” and that the re-entry “may appear as multiple bright streaks moving across the sky in the same direction.” Keep your eyes peeled on the Aerospace’s website as they will be updating the information available as they learn more about Tiangong-1’s trajectory and the time frame of its reentry.
Check out this video to see what a re-entry looks like from space and from the Earth:
It’s very likely that Tiangong-1’s remaining parts after re-entry will fall into an ocean, but if they don’t, CORDS advised that you stay away from the debris of the spacecraft as it may contain and/or emit toxic materials. Happy Easter!