China’s first test space station, Tiangong-1, is out-of-control


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The orbit of China’s first test space station, Tiangong-1, is quickly decaying and the station is shut down with no way to bring it down in a controlled manner.

The Chinese space station is accelerating its fall towards us and will reach the ground in the coming months, Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell told the Guardian. It is decaying quickly and he expects “expect it will come down a few months from now – late 2017 or early 2018”, he told the paper.

The Tiangong 1 station was launched in 2011 as one of the great hopes of the Chinese ambitions in space, and as part of a plan to show itself off as a global superpower. The country’s space agency referred to the station as the “Heavenly Palace” and conducted a range of missions, some of which included astronauts.

But last year scientists at Chinese’s CNSA space agency said that they had lost control of the lab, and that it would now be heading towards Earth. That put an end to months of speculation, as experts watching the path of the station suggested that it had been behaving strangely.

As with many other similar objects coming down from orbit, the odds of any pieces hitting anyone is quite small. Still, China is a signatory to the Outer Space Treaty, and that makes them liable for any damage done by their spacecraft when they return to Earth.

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