China lost control of its Tiangong-1 space lab some time ago, and space experts have warned that it would plummet uncontrollably back to Earth for months. Despite these forewarnings, no one knew when it would happen, or where debris from the spacecraft would land.
These unknowns caused significant anxiety among space agencies and the general public alike. Fortunately, everyone can finally step back and take a deep breath because Tiangong-1 officially hurtled through Earth’s atmosphere this weekend and no one died as a result.
After entering Earth’s atmosphere, the Chinese space lab became a flaming hunk of space junk with an unknown trajectory. But as it would seem, Earth’s high water-to-land surface area ratio worked to our advantage.
The remnants of the Tiangong-1 spacecraft that didn’t burn up upon re-entry landed safely in the Pacific Ocean at 8:15 P.M. Eastern time on Sunday.
Ironically, the landing purportedly took place near a region where spacecraft commonly plummet to their demise after serving their purpose. Experts frequently refer to the area, which resides far away from civilization, as the Spacecraft Cemetery.
Despite being called a “space lab,” Tiangong-1 wasn’t nearly as large as the International Space Station. That said, most of the spacecraft likely burned up in the atmosphere before reaching its landing site. Any material that survived the fall would have been dense and sunk to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
With Tiangong-1 officially grounded, anxious folk can officially stop worrying about where it will land and carry on with their lives. We can only hope that China’s space agency will be more cautious in the future as it carries out various space missions to explore outer space and the planets around us.