China’s first ever prototype space station Tiangong-1 is inferred to crash on Earth between March 30 and April 2. Tiangong-1 was launched into space in September 2011 and it settled into an orbit lower than the International Space Station. This prototype serving as an experimental platform was launched to demonstrate orbital docking capabilities.
Tiangong-1 actually did accomplish its mission. In early November of 2011, it made its first-ever docking when Shenzhou-8 visited this space station and when Shenzhou-10 visited Tiangong-1 in 2012, it marked the end of the space lab’s operational life on the orbit. Since then, the lab was put into sleep mode.
The Space Engineering Office, on March 2016 announced that Tiangong-1 had officially ended its service after an extended lifespan of 2 years. The space station stopped sending data back and all the connections were lost.
#Tiangong1 forecast for 26 March from ESA's Space Debris Office: The estimated reentry window remains from 30 March to 2 April; this is highly variable https://t.co/vaovwQZBoy pic.twitter.com/Kz1tK5B4lb
— ESA Operations (@esaoperations) March 26, 2018
Where will it crash?
China confirmed in 2016 that along with losing lost contact with Tiangong-1, it could no longer control its behaviour, so nobody really knows where it will end up. The space station was speculated to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere by the end of 2017, but now it is expected to deorbit between March 31 and April 2, 2018.
Should I be worried?
No. Most of the 8.5-tonne space module will disintegrate as it passes through the atmosphere. Some very dense part such as the fuel tanks or rocket engines might not burn up completely. However, even if parts do survive to the Earth’s surface, chances of them hitting a person are incredibly slim.
“Our experience is that for such large objects typically between 20% and 40% of the original mass will survive re-entry and then could be found on the ground. However, to be injured by one of these fragments is extremely unlikely. My estimate is that the probability of being injured by one of these fragments is similar to the probability of being hit by lightning twice in the same year”
– ESA’s space debris head officer, Holger Krag, told reporters at a recent event.
If Tiangong-1 parts do fall near your house, (which is very unlikely and I hope it does not), you will be able to see fiery objects lasting up to a minute or more.