Tiangong-1 crash: China says space station came down in Pacific Ocean

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Officials say the space station, which had been out of control since 2016, mostly burnt up on re-entry

Guardian staff and agencies

China’s Tiangong-1 space station has crashed in the Pacific Ocean, according to the country’s space agency.

The spacecraft re-entered the earth’s atmosphere at 0015 GMT on Monday over the South Pacific and mostly burnt up, state news agency Xinhua said.

The US military confirmed the re-entry with a statement from its Joint Force Space Component Command (JFSCC).

The 10.4-metre long (34.1-foot) Tiangong-1, or Heavenly Palace 1, was launched in 2011 to carry out docking and orbit experiments as part of China’s ambitious space programme, which aims to place a permanent station in orbit by 2023.

The European Space Agency had indicated earlier that Tiangong-1 was likely to break up over water, which covers most of the planet’s surface.

It described the probability of someone being hit by a piece of debris from Tiangong-1 as “10 million times smaller than the yearly chance of being hit by lightning”.

It was originally planned to be decommissioned in 2013 but its mission was repeatedly extended. Eventually, in 2016, it had become apparent to space-watchers that the craft had stopped functioning and was no longer responding to ground control.

In December 2017, China eventually made a statement to the UN predicting that Tiangong-1 would come down by late March 2018.

On the Chinese microblog Weibo, internet users posted under the hashtag “Goodbye Tiangong” as the spacecraft’s met its fate. Some were dismissive of the Chinese space agency’s characterisations. “Re-entry? Everyone knows it’s a crash.” Another wrote: “Goodbye Tiangong-1. You are our hero.”

The Chinese tabloid Global Times said on Monday that worldwide media hype about the re-entry reflected overseas “envy” of China’s space industry.

“It’s normal for spacecraft to re-enter the atmosphere, yet Tiangong-1 received so much attention partly because some western countries are trying to hype and sling mud at China’s fast-growing aerospace industry,” it said.

Within a year after Tiangong had stopped working, China launched a second space lab, Tiangong-2, whose aim is to test capabilities for long-term human presence in space, in anticipation of a permanent space station to be launched in 2023.

The paper said this may leave China as the only country keeping people in orbit if the International Space Station is retired in 2024. In that case “China will take a dominant position in conducting space experiments”, said Jiao Weixin, a space science professor at Peking University.

Reuters and AFP contributed to this report

 

 

 

Officials say the space station, which had been out of control since 2016, mostly burnt up on re-entry

Guardian staff and agencies

China’s Tiangong-1 space station has crashed in the Pacific Ocean, according to the country’s space agency.

The spacecraft re-entered the earth’s atmosphere at 0015 GMT on Monday over the South Pacific and mostly burnt up, state news agency Xinhua said.

The US military confirmed the re-entry with a statement from its Joint Force Space Component Command (JFSCC).

The 10.4-metre long (34.1-foot) Tiangong-1, or Heavenly Palace 1, was launched in 2011 to carry out docking and orbit experiments as part of China’s ambitious space programme, which aims to place a permanent station in orbit by 2023.

The European Space Agency had indicated earlier that Tiangong-1 was likely to break up over water, which covers most of the planet’s surface.

It described the probability of someone being hit by a piece of debris from Tiangong-1 as “10 million times smaller than the yearly chance of being hit by lightning”.

It was originally planned to be decommissioned in 2013 but its mission was repeatedly extended. Eventually, in 2016, it had become apparent to space-watchers that the craft had stopped functioning and was no longer responding to ground control.

In December 2017, China eventually made a statement to the UN predicting that Tiangong-1 would come down by late March 2018.

On the Chinese microblog Weibo, internet users posted under the hashtag “Goodbye Tiangong” as the spacecraft’s met its fate. Some were dismissive of the Chinese space agency’s characterisations. “Re-entry? Everyone knows it’s a crash.” Another wrote: “Goodbye Tiangong-1. You are our hero.”

The Chinese tabloid Global Times said on Monday that worldwide media hype about the re-entry reflected overseas “envy” of China’s space industry.

“It’s normal for spacecraft to re-enter the atmosphere, yet Tiangong-1 received so much attention partly because some western countries are trying to hype and sling mud at China’s fast-growing aerospace industry,” it said.

Within a year after Tiangong had stopped working, China launched a second space lab, Tiangong-2, whose aim is to test capabilities for long-term human presence in space, in anticipation of a permanent space station to be launched in 2023.

The paper said this may leave China as the only country keeping people in orbit if the International Space Station is retired in 2024. In that case “China will take a dominant position in conducting space experiments”, said Jiao Weixin, a space science professor at Peking University.

Reuters and AFP contributed to this report

 

 

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