The Chinese space station Tiangong-1 is slowly but surely hurtling back to Earth and there’s between a 10-40% that parts of it could crash.
All we know so far is a large window of when it will crash (30 March to 6 April) and where it might crash which you can see in this map below.
Now while many manmade objects in space harmlessly burn up in the atmosphere Tiangong-1 is around 7-8 tonnes and over 10m in length so when it does finally start the process of reentry there’s a chance that some of it will crash to Earth.
This is a problem, and it’s a problem that the European Space Agency (ESA) has been paying close attention to.
While Tiangong-1 is by no means the largest object to re-enter the atmosphere (that accolade goes to the 74-tonne Skylab) this is an uncontrolled reentry which means that we have no real idea when or where it’s going to crash back to Earth.
The window is considerable and includes countries like France, Spain, Portugal and Greece with around 10-40% chance of the satellite making it through reentry.
Now among this potentially worrying story is some good news and that is the chances of it actually hitting land and then subsequently a human being are mind-bogglingly low.
“The probability of being hit by a piece of debris from the Tiangong-1 is actually 10 million times smaller than the yearly chance of being hit by lightning.” explains the ESA.
The ESA says it should know considerably more about the time and place around a day before it’s expected to re-enter. To stay updated on you can head to ESA’s Tiangong-1 reentry blog here.