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“This is not the end of days.”

Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell on the debris from a Chinese rocket that's expected to fall to Earth around this Saturday.

Debris from a Chinese rocket is expected to reenter Earth's atmosphere this weekend.

Published on

may 7, 2021

China
  • The Pentagon said exactly where it will hit "cannot be pinpointed until within hours of its reentry."
  • China launched The Long March 5B rocket (weighing between 20-25 tons at launch) on April 29. It carried a key part for China's permanent space station, currently in construction. 10 more missions are planned through 2022 to complete it.
  • Space experts expect much of the debris to burn up before re-entry, and to fall into the ocean, although there is a small chance it could hit a populated area. McDowell said the impact will likely be "equivalent of a small plane crash scattered over 100 miles."
  • This is not the first time: Last spring, a piece of a Chinese rocket weighing nearly 20 tons flew over New York and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean-- the largest piece of space debris to hit Earth in decades.The European Space Agency estimated 9,000 tons of space junk are currently in orbit.

Why It Matters: A growing number of countries are entering the space race, which experts and governments say creates a need for stricter, more thorough regulations.

Sources:

Space.com article

USA Today article (has some great graphs tracking the rocket's altitude and speed)

CNN article

Guardian article

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