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
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
“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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