How to track China's falling space lab

Several US states in potential path of falling Chinese space station

Cover Your Head: China's First Space Lab Is About To Fall To Earth

The Italian space agency says there's a slim chance that China's Tiangong-1 space station will hit Italy when it falls out of the sky sometime in the next week.

The Aerospace Corporation, a USA independent space research agency, says visibly incandescent objects will likely last up to a minute or more.

According to the latest predictions, it will begin its fiery descent into Earth's atmosphere somewhere in a window between 30 March and 3 April - possibly around 1 April.

The shape of China's falling space station Tiangong-1 can be seen in this radar image from the Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques near Bonn, Germany.

Only one person - Lottie Williams of Tulsa, Oklahoma - is known to have been hit by space debris falling to Earth.

The laboratory comprised several modules and was able to support up to three astronauts for two weeks at a time.

The experts are yet unaware of the exact location where the Tiangong-1 might crash since the spacecraft is moving at a speed of 27,000 kilometers per hour. During its operational lifetime, Tiangong took part in two crewed missions, and an unmanned one.

The space station - which launched to orbit in 2011 - will circle the Earth dozens of times over the course of the weekend, before the station is expected to re-enter.

Frequent updates will soon begin to be issued in news sources as Tiangong-1 is now trending on Google News in the Science category, and that will likely not change until it's over and done.

Experts say it's highly unlikely that large pieces of schoolbus-sized Tiangong-1 will survive re-entry through the atmosphere. The 77-tonne U.S. space station Skylab also didn't injure anybody and only parts of it were later gathered.

According to the Aerospace Corporation, a non-profit space flight researcher, the probity of Tiangong-1 debris being hazardous is slim. In 1979, Time magazine wrote of the upcoming event: "Thus will be observed, after a series of miscalculations, the tenth anniversary of man's proudest achievement in space, the walk on the moon".

In the USA, the highest probability of debris impact is located on a narrow horizontal band bisecting the country - marked in yellow on the map. The 8.5 ton Tiangong-1 "ceased functioning" on March 16, 2016, China told the United Nations in May 2017, without specifying why.

China officials have said that there is no danger from the station's impending breakup, however there are some larger portions of the station, which are made of denser materials, which could survive all the way to the ground.

Debris from Tiangong-1 may fall onto the above shadowed areas.

Latest News