Chinese space station crashes dramatically into Earth


The eight-tonne Tiangong-1 was mostly burnt up when it entered the Earth's atmosphere in the central region of the South Pacific at around 8:15 am Beijing time, China's Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) said.

Astrophysicist Brad Tucker of Australian National University called Tiangong 1's re-entry "mostly successful".

Tiangong-1 seen at an altitude of about 161 km by the powerful TIRA research radar operated by the Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques (FHR) near Bonn, Germany. The difficulties seemed to wrong-foot Chinese space scientists - just moments before announcing that the craft would come down over the Pacific, they had said it would make its re-entry over Sao Paulo and head towards the Atlantic Ocean.

The European Space Agency gauge that the station, whose name interprets as "Heavenly Palace", will re-enter at some point between Sunday night and Monday morning GMT.

The 8.5-tonne Tiangong-1, with a length of 10.4 metres and maximum diametre of 3.35 metres, providing a room of 15 cubic meters for three astronauts to live and work, was launched by the Long March-2FT1 carrier rocket at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China on September 29, 2011. The chances of any one person being hit by debris are considered less than one in a trillion.

While China always meant to let Tiangong-1 enter the atmosphere, the space authority extended the station's mission several times.

The lows and highs and lows of Easter weekend
Later in the morning, chances of rain drop, but cloudy skies will stick around, so Akronites will need a parka, but no sunglasses. Ahead of the front will be mild temperatures in the upper 50s and lower 60s overnight with showers developing late.

Tiangong-1, launched in September 2011, was a major step for the Chinese space program - a place to practice docking to prepare for the eventual Chinese large modular space station.

A Chinese space-flight engineer denied earlier this year that the lab was out of control.

The last space outpost to drop was Russia's 135-ton Mir station in 2001, which made a controlled landing with most parts breaking up in the atmosphere.

The amount of debris that landed on the Earth's surface still intact has not yet been determined. Huang Weifen, deputy chief designer of the Astronaut Center of China, said it played an important role in China's space history and provided "precious experience" for building a space station, according to the official Xinhua news agency. That's when the fires started, likely destroying most of Tiangong-1.

China had said its re-entry would occur in late 2017 but that process was delayed, leading some experts to suggest the space laboratory was out of control.

And finally, a rain of whatever remained sprinkled the South Pacific, northwest of Tahiti and fairly close to Samoa.