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Parts of a Chinese missile are at risk of colliding with the Earth’s surface – one of the largest uncontrollable collisions ever | Foreigner

Currently, a Chinese missile is rolling uncontrollably around Earth’s orbit and within the next 24 hours it could crash toward the surface of the Earth.

The Long March 5B rocket was launched into space on April 29 from China, to transport building materials to the country’s next space station.

The main unit was successfully delivered to the Sky Palace space station. After that, the Chinese lost control of the launch vehicle, and then the missile body began to rotate uncontrollably in Earth’s orbit.


On April 29, when the Long March 5B launched from Tianhe Space Station in Hainan Province, many were happy with the successful launch.
On April 29, when the Long March 5B launched from Tianhe Space Station in Hainan Province, many were happy with the successful launch.
BILD: EPA-EFE / TANSEC
Chinese and Chinese space program

Experts have estimated that the missile will return to Earth’s atmosphere over the weekend and then crash to Earth. Although most of the missile should burn up on return, there is a risk that some parts of the missile will not burn out.

According to Svenska Yle’s science editor, Markus Rosenlund, the issue is troubling. According to him, it was still unlikely that the parts of the missile would hit an area where people lived.

– The surface of the earth consists of 70 percent of water, so it is possible that the remnants of the missile will fall into the sea or on uninhabited land areas, but of course there is a possibility that its parts collide with a city or suburb. But it is impossible to say.

Marcus Rosenlund at the tram tracks

Markus Rosenlund, science editor at Swedish Yale University, says it is a matter of concern that China cannot control the landing of its missile.
Marcus Rosenlund at the tram tracks
Bild: Il / Elmari Fabricius
Yle Vega, Radio, Community

The missile is rotating in orbit at a speed of about 27,000 kilometers per hour. The speed and the fact that the missile collapses uncontrollably means that experts cannot determine exactly where the missile fell.

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It is currently traded in an area between Madrid, Beijing and New York in the north to Chile and New Zealand in the south.

According to the latest estimates, the missile will fall between Saturday night and Sunday lunch.

When the missile enters the atmosphere again, experts can calculate a six-hour window to determine when the missile will land.

China has been criticized for its random landing

Since 1990, nothing weighing more than 10 tons has been left in Earth’s orbit for unchecked descent.

The Long March 5B weighs about 21 tons, which means that the rocket is one of the largest objects in space history and its landing on Earth cannot be controlled.

Many have criticized the fact that the rocket was left to defend itself in space.

Astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell of the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard University told the Guardian that it doesn’t matter to China.

– Objects weighing more than 10 tons must not leave the ground unchecked.

China has also previously allowed missiles to land unchecked. In May 2020, the parts of another Long March missile fell over the Ivory Coast. At that time, only buildings were damaged.

Most of the missile burned out before it fell, but huge chunks of metal fell to the ground. “We can consider ourselves lucky that no one was hurt,” says McDowell.

McDowell says the fact that the missile re-entered the atmosphere and exploded there could be mimicked in a plane crash in which its parts spread over a distance of more than 185,000 km.

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“Eat China’s reputation”

According to McDowell, most other countries have built their spacecraft so that large, unsupervised landings can be avoided. This is after parts of the NASA space station fell from Earth’s orbit in July 1979 and spread to land in Australia.

The Xian Symphony Orchestra accompanied the launch ceremony on April 29.

The Xian Symphony Orchestra accompanied the launch ceremony on April 29.
The Xian Symphony Orchestra accompanied the launch ceremony on April 29.
BILD: EPA-EFE / TANSEC
Chinese space program

Marcus Rosenlund also believes that it is strange that China has no better control over its missiles.

– It is strange that the Chinese have not learned to deal with these missiles. Nothing of the sort happens to NASA or Elon Musk rockets – they land in a controlled manner.

According to Rosenlund, the case undermines China’s reputation as a space nation.

It might be embarrassing for the Chinese for this kind of thing to happen. China has big ambitions when it comes to space, they are trying to revitalize themselves and can be considered the heirs of the Soviet Union in the space race against NASA. But it hasn’t worked well yet.

Sources: The Guardian, Reuters