I fell asleep in the early hours of this morning with the TV remote in bed with me. Around 2.30a.m. I must have rolled over on it and was roused by the BBC reporting on the Chinese space station crash.
Tiangong-1, (which translates as Heavenly Palace 1 or Celestial Palace 1) had just plummeted to earth at 17,000 m.p.h., before crashing into the Pacific Ocean, just missing the paradise holiday island of Tahiti. It was travelling fast enough for even a small piece of orbital debris to damage a satellite or spacecraft.
On 21 March 2016 Tiangong-1 was officially decommissioned. Two months later, China’s space agency declared that they had lost control of it. So the arrival of tons of toxic space station crashing to earth was expected, China’s Manned Space Engineering Office had been providing updates on a daily basis. It was likely to break up over water, as it covers 71% of our planet. So that made it OK then? I don’t think so.
“It’s been tumbling and spinning for a while, which means that when it really starts to come down it’s less predictable about what happens to it.”
Brad Tucker, Astrophysicist, Australian National University
A more realistic observation.
On 5 July 2016, the United States Strategic Command reported that they tracked a total of 17,852 artificial objects in orbit above the Earth, including 1,419 operational satellites and spent rocket stages.
I don’t have to be an astrophysicist to work out that man-made junk and how to dispose of it is no longer just a global problem.
Surely, as there is so much space trash clogging up the Universe, it is inevitable that we will see more Tiangong-1‘s raining down on our heads?