Parts of China’s successfully launched Long March 5B rocket made it's way back to Earth, according to CNN.
Pieces of space debris descended uncontrollably over the continental United States before splashing into the Atlantic ocean, the US Air Force confirmed.
#18SPCS has confirmed the reentry of the CZ-5B R/B (#45601, 2020-027C) at 08:33 PDT on 11 May, over the Atlantic Ocean. The #CZ5B launched China’s test crew capsule on 5 May 2020. #spaceflightsafety
— 18 SPCS (@18SPCS) May 11, 2020
“For a large object like this, dense pieces like parts of the rocket engines could survive re-entry and crash to Earth,” Harvard-Smithsonian astronomer Jonathan McDowell told CNN.
“Once they reach the lower atmosphere they are traveling relatively slowly, so the worst case is they could take out a house.”
The rocket had originally sent an experimental spacecraft into Earth’s orbit earlier this month, however, the empty core of the rocket started tearing apart as it made its way back through the Earth’s atmosphere without any technology to alter its course.
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“At 17.8 tons, it is the most massive object to make an uncontrolled reentry since the 39-tonne Salyut-7 [spacecraft] in 1991,” McDowell wrote in a tweet last week.
Historically only larger pieces of the Skylab in 1979 and the Columbia space shuttle in 2003 made more massive uncontrolled descents back to earth.
Pieces of debris traveling through Earth’s atmosphere are difficult to track. As of Monday morning, “potential reentry areas” still included parts of Australia, the US, and Africa according to McDowell.
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“The Air Force’s final prediction was plus or minus half an hour, during which time it went 3/4 of the way around the world. It’s pretty hard to do any better,” McDowell told CNN.
China aims to complete a multi-module, inhabited space station around 2022. It became the third country to put a man in space with its own rocket in 2003 after the former Soviet Union and the United States.
China has since been racing to catch up with Russia and the United States to become a major space power by 2030.
This article originally published on Futurism.
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