Maltese scientists tracking China's space station fiery re-entry to Earth

Space Stations Rising and Falling title

According to space debris experts, the chances that you will be hit by of a chunk of space metal are essentially zero.

"It can be surmised that Tiangong-1 will break up during its atmospheric reentry and that some parts will survive the process and reach the surface of Earth".

Using sophisticated technology funded by the Italian Space Agency, the Maltese team from the Institute of Space Sciences and Astronomy (ISSA) is monitoring China's first prototype space station, Tiangong-1, to predict where the pieces might fall and sound the alarm if necessary. In its lifetime it was involved in six rendezvous and docking missions with manned Shenzhou spacecraft, and made "significant contributions to the development of China's manned space mission" space authorities said.

It is thought that the Tiangong-1, which officially terminated its data communications with ground control on March 16, may fall and crash to the ground or hit the sea between 43 degrees north and south of the equator at an unknown longitude. Launched in 2011, Tiangong-1, whose name means Heavenly Palace, was a milestone that marked China's determination to catch up to or even outpace global space powers.

A defunct Chinese space station is falling to Earth at 17,400 miles per hour and orbits about every 90 minutes.

Figuring out where the space lab will fall is a complex calculation of the station's altitude, the height of the Earth's atmosphere (which changes according to solar activity) and the station's shape.

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"It will mostly burn up due to the extreme heat generated by its high-speed passage through the atmosphere", it said in a statement.

Only one person has ever been hit by space debris. "So just by putting it into space and returning it to Earth, it's still the property of the Chinese".

It's the debris you need to be looking out for.

Experts said it's hard to establish exactly where the space lab will fall, but it's expected to descend within a latitude of 43 degrees north and south of the equator.

"The best case-and most likely case-is that it will come down over water some place and never be seen again", says Ailor.

The Chinese space station Tiangong-1 continues its inexorable descent towards Earth. There is a variety of variables that could impact the spaceport station influence. While the most probable location for debris to fall is into the oceans, any pieces falling on land should be avoided and reported immediately, as they may be contaminated with hydrazine, a highly toxic and corrosive chemical that is used as spacecraft fuel.

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