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Chinese Space Station Re-Enters Atmosphere, Smashes To Earth At 17,000 MPH

By  Joseph Curl

Consider yourself lucky if you lived through the weekend.

A Chinese space station, the Tiangong 1, spiraled out of its orbit and plunged toward Earth on Sunday. The space hunk — traveling at 17,000 mph — smashed into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Tahiti early Monday morning, although much of it disintegrated from the atmosphere’s friction.

Space experts knew the nine-ton space station the size of a school bus was going to crash to Earth, but they didn’t know where. And the range for possible impact was huge: One model showed the Pacific Ocean, another a small town in Michigan. Just minutes before it re-entered the atmosphere, space experts predicted it could hit off the Brazilian coast in the South Atlantic near the cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

The spacecraft re-entered the atmosphere around 8.15 a.m. Beijing time (0015GMT), or what was left of it, anyway. The “vast majority” of it had burnt up upon re-entry, the China Manned Space Engineering Office said.

“Based on the space station’s orbit, it could have come back to Earth somewhere 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south, a range covering most of the United States, China, Africa, southern Europe, Australia and South America,” the Daily Mail reported.

The United States Air Force 18th Space Control Squadron, which tracks and detects all artificial objects in earth’s orbit, said they had also tracked the Tiangong-1 as it re-entered the atmosphere over the South Pacific.

It said in a statement they had confirmed re-entry in coordination with counterparts in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Britain.

Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said the module zoomed over Pyongyang and the Japanese city of Kyoto during daylight hours, reducing the odds of seeing it before it hit the Pacific.

“It would have been fun for people to see it, but there will be other reentries,” McDowell told AFP. “The good thing is that it doesn’t cause any damage when it comes down and that’s what we like.”

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