China expects Tiangong-1 space station to hit Earth on Monday

Tiangong-1 reentry updates | Rocket Science - ESA's blogs

Graphic showing the scale of China's Tiangong-1 space station, which is expected to make an uncontrolled fall through Earth's atmosphere around April 1, 2018.

The re-entry is expected take place within two hours of either side of 8:18 p.m. Sunday.

Most fragments will dissipate in the air and a small amount of debris will fall relatively slowly before landing across hundreds of square miles, most likely in the ocean, which covers more than 70 per cent of the Earth's surface. That includes a vast swath of the planet, including the entirety of Africa, most of South America, the continental US from Boston south, and much of China.

The 9.4-ton, school bus-size space lab is tumbling, making it almost impossible for analysts to determine the effects atmospheric drag has on its trajectory.

A map showing the potential areas on the planet, shown in green and yellow, where debris from a falling Chinese space station could land.

Tiangong-1 - or "Heavenly Palace" - was placed in orbit in September 2011, an important step in China's efforts towards building its own space station.

Predictions about Tiangong-1's re-entry are inherently uncertain because its exact position and orientation are unknown.

An 8.5-ton Chinese space station will come barreling back down to Earth on Sunday night, leaving much of the world on guard about where it might land.

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Where will Tiangong-1 fall?

The station is gradually coming close to Earth. On this mission, the crew spent 11 days at the station and completed two dockings - one computer-controlled and one crew-guided.

In case you had plans for tomorrow, maybe a roast or something, those plans could very well be interrupted a space station falling down on you and ruining your roast. In the continental USA, that's Sunday evening.

A model of the Tiangong-1 space lab module, left, the Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft, right, and three Chinese astronauts is displayed during a news conference at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, in Gansu province, China on June 15, 2012.

The "space lab" was part of China's planned research as it works toward a permanently staffed space station.

"This means that the density of the upper atmosphere, through which Tiangong-1 is moving, did not increase as predicted (which would have dragged the spacecraft down sooner) and hence the ESA Space Debris Office has adjusted the predicted decay rate".

A mission to land another rover on Mars and bring back samples is set to launch in 2020.

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