China: Most of Rocket Burned on Reentry05/09 08:33
China's space agency said a core segment of its biggest rocket reentered
Earth's atmosphere above the Maldives in the Indian Ocean and that most of it
burned up early Sunday.
BEIJING (AP) -- China's space agency said a core segment of its biggest
rocket reentered Earth's atmosphere above the Maldives in the Indian Ocean and
that most of it burned up early Sunday.
Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, who tracked the tumbling rocket
part, said on Twitter, "An ocean reentry was always statistically the most
likely. It appears China won its gamble... But it was still reckless."
People in Jordan, Oman and Saudi Arabia reported sightings of the Chinese
rocket debris on social media, with scores of users posting footage of the
debris piercing the early dawn skies over the Middle East.
Usually, discarded rocket stages reenter the atmosphere soon after liftoff,
normally over water, and don't go into orbit.
China's official Xinhua News Agency later clarified that reentry occurred
Sunday at 10:24 a.m. Beijing time. "The vast majority of items were burned
beyond recognition during the reentry process," the report said.
Despite that, NASA Administrator Sen. Bill Nelson issued a statement saying:
"It is clear that China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding
their space debris."
The roughly 30-meter (100-foot) long rocket stage is among the biggest space
debris to fall to Earth. China's space program, with its close military links,
hasn't said why it put the main component of the rocket into space rather than
allowing it to fall back to earth soon after discharging its payload, as is
usual in such operations.
The Long March 5B rocket carried the main module of China's first permanent
space station -- Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony -- into orbit on April 29. China
plans 10 more launches to carry additional parts of the space station into
An 18-ton rocket that fell last May was the heaviest debris to fall
uncontrolled since the former Soviet space station Salyut 7 in 1991.
China's first-ever space station, Tiangong-1, crashed into the Pacific Ocean
in 2016 after Beijing confirmed it had lost control. In 2019, the space agency
controlled the demolition of its second station, Tiangong-2, in the atmosphere.
Both had been briefly occupied by Chinese astronauts as precursors to China's
permanent station, now under construction.
In March, debris from a Falcon 9 rocket launched by U.S. aeronautics company
SpaceX fell to Earth in Washington and on the Oregon coast.
China was heavily criticized after sending a missile to destroy a defunct
weather satellite in January 2007, creating a large field of hazardous debris
imperiling satellites and other spacecraft.