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China Confirmed its First Space Station Tiangong-1 to Fall Back to Earth

Sep 21, 2016 06:18 AM EDT
China Launches Its First Space Laboratory Module Tiangong-1
After the successful launch of Tiangong-2, China's second space lab, China's authorities announced in a press conference that Tiangong-1 is falling back to Earth.
(Photo : Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

China just launched its second space lab, Tiangong-2, in space. However, not a lot of people knew that its predecessor, Tiangong-1, failed and will deliberately fall back into Earth.

The out-of-control Tiangong-1 is most likely to fall back to Earth in the second half of 2017. Tiangong-1 is the first space lab launched by China in 2011. The space lab's service officially ended in March this year and it is falling back into Earth, but because the space station is now out-of-control, there's no exact information as to when or where the re-entry will occur.

Experts say there shouldn't be any problem since the plummeting Tiangong-1 will not cause any disturbance on the ground.

"Based on our calculation and analysis, most parts of the space lab will burn up during falling," China's state-run Xinhua news agency said in a report. Reports also say that China is no longer capable of controlling the space lab, this makes for a free-willing and unrestrained re-entry, in contrast to the planned guided re-entry mission to redirect the spacecraft to an empty ocean on a very specific time frame. China has already admitted that these precautionary measures are no longer possible.

Decommissioned space stations are redirected and guided for a re-entry to burn up in the atmosphere at the end of each mission. The scenario is highly controlled and monitored to prevent any disturbance on the planet. But in the case of China's Tiangong-1, the country is not sure when exactly the space lab will re-enter. What authorities know is that the space lab will burn before the end of 2017, according to Popular Mechanics.

Experts reiterate that although the out-of-control Tiangong-1 is falling back to Earth, most of its pieces will burn during re-entry and very few pieces have a chance to actually fall on the ground.

China redeemed itself by launching a second more promising space lab called Tiangong-2 that is an upgrade of the first one in terms of scientific equipment and comfort in space for the crew. 


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