Don’t be alarmed by this weekend’s crash of Chinese space debris…

This weekend, a massive Chinese rocket body is predicted to crash. 

on Earth, but that doesn’t mean you should hide in a bunker.

The Long March 5B rocket’s core stage, which launched a module

 to China’s Tiangong space station last Sunday is the doomed space

 debris (July 24). The 25-ton (22.5 metric tonnes) booster is expected 

Come down on Saturday evening (July 30), according to the most recent 

predictions, albeit there is now a very large margin of error: plus or minus 

16 hours.

Approximately five to nine metric tonnes (5.5 to 9.9 tonnes), according

to The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Orbital Reentry and Debris Studies,

will make it all the way to Earth while the majority of the rocket will burn up in

the atmosphere. However, given how much of the Earth is covered in ocean and

has a very sparse population on land, the chances of a piece reaching anyone

are extremely small.

Ted Muelhaupt, a consultant with The Aerospace Corporation’s Corporate

Chief Engineer’s Office, stated during a conversation regarding the upcoming

Long March 5B crash that the corporation live streamed today (July 28) on Twitter

that there is a “99.5 percent likelihood that nothing will happen.”

I myself would run outside with a camera to witness this if it were coming down

on my head because I believe it would be more of a visual opportunity than a risk,

he continued. When the Long March 5B’s remaining pieces hit the ground,

they will be moving at a speed of several hundred miles per hour (or water).

These impacts won’t be catastrophic, but they will be energetic and destructive.

Let’s put this in perspective, said Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics astronomer and satellite tracker Jonathan

McDowell, “the worst case in this event is going to be less devastating than

a single cruise missile attack that we’ve been seeing every day in the Ukraine war.”

Despite all of this, McDowell and others emphasized that the upcoming

 Long March 5B collision is a significant and regrettable incident, especially

 because it was preventable. Immediately after launch, the core stages 

of the majority of orbital rockets are guided for a safe splashdown in the 

sea or over sparsely populated terrain; in the case of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and

 Falcon Heavy vehicles, the core stages come down for vertical landings and 

potential future reuse.

However, the core stage of the Long March 5B also enters orbit with its payload

and remains there until it is pulled down by atmospheric drag.

With three launches under its belt, the large Chinese rocket has already made

 two uncontrollable reentries. 

After the April 2021 mission that lofted Tianhe, the Tiangong space station’s 

the core stage, one of those falls took place over an empty ocean. 

The other, however, sent some rocket debris over West Africa in May 2020, 

some of which appeared to land near the Ivory Coast 

As evidenced by that catastrophe, every significant, uncontrolled fall of space

 debris carries the risk of injuries and infrastructure damage. 

And the likelihood that someone will be hurt or killed increases as more of 

these occurrences take place.

These lessons have not been entirely internalized by China, as shown by the 

Long March 5B’s design. 

However, McDowell voiced confidence that the country would soon join in.

He stated, “I do see China gradually embracing the conventions of other countries 

in space. 

“And I believe it’s crucial to keep in mind that they entered space activities rather later 

then other countries. 

They are therefore catching up, and according to my theory, norms are as well.”

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