China's Tiangong-1 space station will crash into Earth in weeks


Still, there's a degree of uncertainty, coupled with concerns that the spacecraft could have titanium fuel tanks holding toxic hydrazine, which could be unsafe if it crashed into an urban area. The space station will fall somewhere between 43 degrees North and South, but because of the angle of the Tiangong-1, it's more likely to fall near the maximum or minimum than on the equator.

"To make any sensible statement about what will survive, we'd need to know what's inside", said Stijn Lemmens, a space debris analyst at the ESA's Darmstadt center in an interview with the Guardian.

While it's exact re-entry location can not be pinpointed, space agencies believe the doomed piece of space junk has a higher chance of hitting New Zealand, the US, Europe and Australia.

Tiangong 1 was launched in September 2011 by China.

A Chinese space station, which is now hurtling out-of-control through space, could impact the Earth within 21 days and New Zealand may be in the firing line.

China's first space station named Tiangong-1 meaning Heavenly Palace went out of control on March 16 of 2016, and the nation revealed in 2017 that regaining control resulted in failure.

"It is only in the final week or so that we are going to be able to start speaking about it with more confidence", he said.

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For now, ground stations are able to track Tiangong-1 as it speeds along at 16,000 miles an hour some 180 miles above Earth.

"I would guess that a few pieces will survive re-entry". Scientists could offer a better prediction if they knew exactly what was on the station, but the only people privy to that information seems to be Chinese authorities.

Holger Krag, head of ESA's Space Debris Office, told Newsweek in January: "Owing to the geometry of the station's orbit, we can already exclude the possibility that any fragments will fall over any spot further north than 43°N or further south than 43°S".

'This means that re-entry may take place over any spot on Earth between these latitudes, which includes several European countries, for example.

McDowell tweeted on Wednesday, March 7 that "confusion remains widespread" in predicting Tiangong-1's reentry location, and date and time.

As noted, a majority of the spacecraft is expected to burn up upon reentry into Earth's atmosphere, but some chunks weighing as much as 220 pounds could hit the surface.

In the history of spaceflight, no casualties due to falling space debris have ever been confirmed.