Science & Technology

Chinese Space Station Tiangong-1 Crashes Over South Pacific Ocean

| April 2 , 2018 , 09:27 IST

Ending months of speculations, China's Tiangong-1 Space Lab re-entered Earth's atmosphere on Monday morning, crashing into the middle of the South Pacific, although many of its parts were said to have burned up in the re-entry process.

China Manned Space Agency confirmed the return of Tiangong-1, adding "Most parts were burned up in the re-entry process."

The Chinese space station Tiangong-1 which translates into 'Heavenly Palace' was launched in September 2011 as a prototype for China's goal of setting up a permanent space station and was last used by astronauts in 2013. The Chinese government in May 2017 told the United Nations that the space station had "ceased functioning" in March 2016 but did not specify why they lost control of the space station.  

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Since October 2017, speculations have been rife regarding when the Tiangong-1 would fall back to Earth, with initial reports suggesting either in late 2017 or early 2018. Later reports narrowed down the crash to March 31-April 1.

Regardless of the date of Tiangong-1's return, experts estimated that most of the space station would be burnt up on its re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere and would not cause damage but rather provide a vivid star show, similar to a meteor shower.

Scientists had earlier said predicted it might be possible to see the spacecraft burn up in a "series of fireballs streaking across the sky."

However, due to the remote location of the crash in the South Pacific Ocean, and that it took place during daytime it's unlikely that the Tiangong-1's returning fire show was spotted by people.

Tiangong-1 is not the first space station to crash back to Earth. In 1979, NASA's first space station 'Skylab' crashed down to Earth in an out-of-control re-entry, burning up in the process and in 2001, Russia's 135-ton Mir station made a controlled landing with most parts breaking up in the atmosphere.