A large out-of-control Chinese rocket is going to smash into Earth this coming weekend, according to reports.
“The large Chinese rocket that is out of control and set to reenter Earth’s atmosphere this weekend has brought about an alarming but not unprecedented situation,” reported CNN.
The debris “plunging toward Earth” does not appear to pose a significant threat, with CNN reporting that Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Astrophysics Center at Harvard University, saying, “This is not the end of days.”
“I don’t think people should take precautions. The risk that there will be some damage or that it would hit someone is pretty small — not negligible, it could happen — but the risk that it will hit you is incredibly tiny. And so I would not lose one second of sleep over this on a personal threat basis,” he said. “There are much bigger things to worry about.”
The Pentagon has been tracking the Chinese “Long March 5B” rocket. According to a statement from Defense Department spokesperson Mike Howard, the U.S. Space Command is tracking the rocket’s trajectory, expected to enter our planet’s atmosphere this weekend.
According to Howard, the “exact entry point into the Earth’s atmosphere” cannot be determined until just hours before the rocket enters Earth’s atmosphere.
“We expect it to reenter sometime between the eighth and 10th of May. And in that two day period, it goes around the world 30 times. The thing is traveling at like 18,000 miles an hour. And so if you’re an hour out at guessing when it comes down, you’re 18,000 miles out in saying where,” explained McDowell.
“The rocket was used by the Chinese to launch part of their space station last week. While most space debris objects burn up in the atmosphere, the rocket’s size — 22 tons — has prompted concern that large parts could reenter and cause damage if they hit inhabited areas,” added CNN.
Daily updates on the location of the Long March 5B rocket can be found on the Space Track website.
According to The Guardian, this is not the first time China’s space program has experienced this form of scientific disaster.
“Last time they launched a Long March 5B rocket they ended up with big long rods of metal flying through the sky and damaging several buildings in the Ivory Coast,” McDowell said, adding that while “most of it burned up,” there were still “enormous pieces of metal that hit the ground.”
“We are very lucky no one was hurt,” commented McDowell.
“What’s bad is that it’s really negligent on China’s part. Things more than ten tonnes we don’t let them fall out of the sky uncontrolled deliberately,” McDowell said.
As CNET noted, “Space junk, discarded rocket boosters, scraps of metal and defunct satellites, can remain in orbit for years — even decades.”
“As we’ve launched more and more satellites into space, the problem has gotten progressively worse,” James Blake, an astrophysicist Ph.D. student at the University of Warwick studying orbital debris, said, according to CNET.