On the 29th of April 2021, the Long March 5B – a Chinese rocket, launched a piece of the new Chinese space station into orbit, and left to hurtle through space, leaving Earth’s gravity to pull it back.
While many questions have been left unanswered, some key information have been provided by experts on the falling debris.
The 100 feet tall rocket (weighing 22 tonnes) is expected to enter Earth’s atmosphere between the 8th and 10th of May, with a large ‘risk zone’ between latitudes 41.5N and 41.5S which encompasses all of the Americas south of New York, all of Africa and Australia, parts of Asia south of Japan and Europe’s Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. This is based on a recent release by The European Space Agency.
According to Mike Howard – a spokesperson for the US Defense Department, the re-entry and trajectory will be tracked by US Space Command.
Howard also reassured that the rocket’s debris generally poses very little threat to personal safety.
Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Astrophysics Center at Harvard University also shared similar opinion during a recent interview.
“The risk that there will be some damage or that it would hit someone is pretty small –not negligible, it could happen – but the risk that it will hit you is incredibly tiny. And so I would not lose one second of sleep over this on a personal threat basis.
“We expect it to reenter sometime between the eighth and 10th of May. And in that two-day period, it goes around the world 30 times.” He said.
“The thing is traveling at like 18,000 miles an hour. And so if you’re an hour out at guessing when it comes down, you’re 18,000 miles out in saying where.
“Still, the ocean remains the safest bet for where the debris will land, just because it takes up most of the Earth’s surface.
“If you want to bet on where on Earth something’s going to land, you bet on the Pacific, because Pacific is most of the Earth. It’s that simple,” McDowell reassured.