China’s Tiangong 1 space lab is currently in a state of mystery. There have been rumors buzzing around the internet from several credible news outlets that the space lab has reached the end of its life and may soon come hurdling back to Earth.
Image Credit: CMSA
China has reportedly been unable to get back in control of the satellite, and there has been little communication with the rest of the world about what’s going on, so essentially, China’s space lab may be just circling the Earth uncontrollably and it could be getting closer to re-entry into our atmosphere and we might not even know it.
China’s space agency doesn’t like to announce things to the world or communicate their plans very much, so this serves as quite an alarming incident for rest of the world. If this 8-ton hunk of space instruments and observation equipment comes hurdling down to Earth, we certainly don’t know yet just where it would land.
"If I am right, China will wait until the last minute to let the world know it has a problem with their space station," Thomas Dorman, an amateur satellite tracker, said to Space.com.
"It could be a real bad day if pieces of this came down in a populated area … but odds are, it will land in the ocean or in an unpopulated area. But remember — sometimes, the odds just do not work out, so this may bear watching."
Although the Earth's surface is 71% water, and there’s a greater chance it would land in the middle of an ocean somewhere, rather than on top of a continent somewhere, the fact that China may have lost control of Tiangong 1 means that there may not be any control whatsoever on where it could end up.
Because of the secrecy behind what’s going on, it’s understandable that other nations are worried about the potential outcome of this situation, and some have even gone as far as to call the Chinese space administration irresponsible for not sharing information like this with the rest of the world so we all can stay in the loop and can do something about it.
Chinese authorities don’t seem to know when the space lab will come back to Earth, and seeing as how they may have lost control of the space station nearing the end of its service life, that would seem to suggest that it’s going to come down and that it may not come down in a controlled fashion.
There are, of course, some experts who do believe the satellite could be de-orbited safely, given the world gets an early warning, of course.
One expert even believes that China may not be saying much about it because is actually is under control. T.S. Kelso, a senior research astrodynamicist at the Center for Space Standards notes that the space lab was recently re-boosted a significant amount.
"It seems it may be much ado about nothing. That re-boost put it higher than it had been any time prior to that in its mission.”
Kelso explains that there is no evidence of the space lab tumbling out of control and this is likely why the Chinese space agency has fallen quiet about so much speculation and criticism about Tiangong 1 as of late.
At this point in time, simply no one knows what’s going on, and we probably won’t until China makes a formal announcement, which appears to be an unlikely action to be taken.
Source: Space.com, Universe Today