Most of the debris from the Chinese Long March 5B rocket disintegrated on Sunday when it collided with the atmosphere and fell into the Indian Ocean, ending speculation about whether its return to Earth could cause damage.
China’s Manned Space Engineering Bureau reported in a statement that the debris or “debris” re-entered Earth’s atmosphere at 10.24 (2.24 GMT) this morning and fell to 72.47 degrees east longitude and 2.65 degrees north latitude.RELATED
The coordinates are around the Maldives islands in the Indian Ocean, south of India, according to the local press, while the agency points out that most of the remains disintegrated when they collided with the Earth’s atmosphere. The Space-Track website of the US Space Control Squadron confirmed the coordinates today through a tweet.
The size of the object, with an estimated mass of between 17 and 21 tons and a size of approximately 30 meters, and the speed at which it was moving – some 28,000 kilometers per hour – led to the activation of several of the most important space surveillance services. of the world, including the Pentagon or the European Union Space Surveillance and Tracking Service (EUSST).
This agency already announced last Friday that the remains of the rocket would fall in a region of the Earth covered for the most part by the ocean or uninhabited areas, and that the statistical probability of an impact on the ground in populated areas was low.
China also asserted on Friday that it was “highly unlikely” that the debris from the rocket would cause damage upon its return to Earth, and that it was most likely that it would disintegrate during its re-entry into the atmosphere.
In this sense, the Chinese expert Song Zhongping told the Global Times today that it is “completely normal” for the remains of rockets to return to Earth, which is “a common practice carried out by many other countries, such as the United States. “.
According to this newspaper, the rocket was composed of “light materials” and that, therefore, “it was to be expected that most of the remains would disintegrate when in contact with the atmosphere.” These days, local media have accused the foreign press of sensationalism and described the information in this regard as “exaggerations that only seek to discredit the Asian country.”
Some experts considered the wreckage of Long March 5B – used to launch one of the modules of the future Chinese space station into space – as one of the largest pieces of debris to return to Earth, hence its continued surveillance.
American scientists also criticized that the Chinese special program allowed the uncontrolled re-entry of such a large rocket, and today NASA administrator Bill Nelson reprimanded the Asian country for “not complying with the standards of responsibility regarding its space debris.”
The criticisms come given that this family of rockets lacks an additional propulsion system that allows them to return to a specific area of the Earth, which already caused one of them to fall in the Atlantic Ocean and on the Ivory Coast in 2000. .
Nor is it the first time that a Chinese spacecraft has been in the crosshairs of surveillance services around the world: in April 2018 the Tiangong 1 orbital laboratory, which had been in disuse since 2016 and was roaming uncontrollably, re-entered the atmosphere. land over the South Pacific Ocean.
“Countries with space capabilities must minimize the risks to people and property from reentry of space objects, as well as maximize transparency about those operations,” Nelson said today in a statement. He added that “it is essential that China act in a responsible and transparent manner to ensure the security, stability and long-term sustainability of outer space activities.”
And it is that the ambitious Chinese program has planned up to eleven launches of this type between 2021 and 2022, in order to complete the construction of its space station before the beginning of 2023. Of those 11 missions planned between this year and next, four They will be manned and another four will be cargo.
According to the Xinhua agency, the space station will orbit the Earth at an altitude of between 340 and 450 kilometers, and is designed to last about 10 years, although experts are confident that it can last more than 15. The space station is just one of the legs of the Chinese space program, which, for example, plans to reach Mars in the coming weeks via the Tianwen-1 probe.