Out-of-Control Chinese Rocket Set to Re-Enter Earth's Atmosphere This Weekend

Chinese Rocket set to re-enter Earth's atmosphere this weekend.
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Trying to pinpoint where the debris is headed is almost impossible due to the speed the rocket is traveling.

A massive piece of space debris from a Chinese rocket is expected to break apart and plummet towards Earth in the coming days. The trouble is no one really knows where it will land until hours before its reentry, raising concerns on where the debris will fall.

The Pentagon has been busy tracking the rocket’s trajectory as it reenters the Earth’s atmosphere around May 8, according to the Department of Defense.

“We are certainly tracking its location through the U.S. Space Command,”  said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

The U.S. Space Command Public Affairs Office reported that it is following it is as close as possible. “Reentry is expected this Saturday, May 8th. Its exact entry point into the Earth’s atmosphere cannot be pinpointed until within hours of its reentry.” 

Experts assure the public it won’t be like the sci-fi film “Armageddon.” 

"I don't think people should take precautions. The risk that there will be some damage or that it would hit someone is pretty small -- not negligible, it could happen -- but the risk that it will hit you is incredibly tiny. And so I would not lose one second of sleep over this on a personal threat basis," Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Astrophysics Center at Harvard University, told CNN.

Last week, China launched a rocket carrying part of its new space station. Typically similar rockets are designed to safely fall into the ocean after the launch. Experts say in this case, the massive rocket body is falling and will make an uncontrolled reentry into earth’s atmosphere, the "Today" show reported.

The concern over the space debris comes after China launched the first module of its planned space station last Thursday morning from the Wenchang launch site in the southern island of Hainan, according to the China National Space Administration, CNN reported. 

While most space debris objects burn up in the atmosphere, the rocket's size — 22 tons — has prompted concern that large parts could reenter and cause damage if they hit inhabited areas, the news station said.

Trying to pinpoint where the debris is headed is almost impossible due to the speed the rocket is traveling. McDowell estimates the rocket’s speed is at 18,000 miles per hour, therefore, he said, “if you’re an hour out at guessing when it comes down, you’re 18,000 miles out saying where.” 

Since 70 percent of the Earth is made up of ocean waters, it is most likely that the debris will fall in the Pacific, McDowell predicts. 

In the meantime, the 18th Space Control Squadron will provide daily updates on the rocket's location through the Space Track website.

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