A 100-feet-long Chinese rocket booster is dangerously headed toward Earth
An enormous remnant of China's Long March 5B space rocket is headed toward Earth. Mengtian was launched as the third module to the Tiangong space station on October 31. According to Aerospace Corporation, the space rocket's core booster with a size of a 10-story building is set to crash on Earth today, putting 88% of the world's population at risk.
Why does this story matter?
- Generally, after the core stage disengages from its rocket, the resulting debris would splash into oceans or onto uninhabited areas.
- But Long March 5B, China's heaviest rocket, is crafted differently. It is built to travel along with the space module it is carrying into the orbit of launch.
- This is particularly dangerous because debris from the rocket can make its way to our planet.
The remnants are predicted to land on Earth today
Our latest prediction for #CZ5B rocket body reentry is:— The Aerospace Corporation (@AerospaceCorp) November 3, 2022
🚀04 Nov 2022 11:20 UTC ± 3 hours
Reentry will be along one of the ground tracks shown here. It is still too early to determine a meaningful debris footprint. Follow here for updates: https://t.co/KZZ9LgLk0k pic.twitter.com/GlnE8C0Iok
Long March 5B is a massive rocket
Long March 5B's core stage measures 33-meter (108 feet) in length and weighs roughly 22 metric tons. Smaller spacecraft that slide off their orbits and plummet toward Earth usually burn up in the atmosphere and do not cause any harm. But the same scenario cannot be expected in this case. There is a 10-40% probability that the rocket would crash right into Earth's surface.
It is uncertain where the rocket remnant would land
Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) recommends that debris from space entering Earth's atmosphere should not exceed a one-in-10,000 chance of injuring or killing a person. But, China surpasses this limit. "The uncertainty of where the large debris will ultimately land presents a level of risk to human safety and property damage that is well above commonly accepted thresholds," said Aerospace on its website.
Earlier Chinese rockets also had an uncontrollable re-entry to Earth
Tianhe and Wentian were the previous space modules transported by Long March 5B rockets in April 2021 and July 2022, respectively. Rocket remnants that carried the first module, whizzed past thickly populated areas before it crashed into the Indian Ocean in May 2021. The second rocket disintegrated over Malaysia and the debris landed both on land and in oceans near Indonesia and the Philippines.
Should you be worried?
Experts at the Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies (CORDS) are vigorously tracking the rocket body and will soon release their analysis. Besides, there is only a one in one trillion chance that a person might be harmed by falling space debris.