Chinese space station hurtling toward Earth

Posted April 03, 2018

China's Tiangong-1 space lab finally plummeted to Earth on Sunday evening, as scientists predicted.

"Although Tiangong-1 was only a transitional platform between the spaceship and space station, it's a key step for China to acquire the spacecraft docking technology, and it demonstrated the possibility of long-time space residence for the Chinese", said Bai Ruixue, a former space journalist and now CEO of a company focusing on public understanding of space science.

"Most parts were burned up in the re-entry process", the agency said.

The Tiangong-1 is expected to make an uncontrolled earthbound plunge today Beijing time, China Manned Space said in a statement, an estimate roughly in line with European Space Agency (ESA) projections.

Astronomer Jonathan McDowell, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tweeted that it appeared to have come down north-west of Tahiti.

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With accommodation for two astronauts, China's first space station blasted into orbit aboard a Long March rocket in 2011.

The space lab was mostly burnt up in the atmosphere, according to the monitoring and analysis of the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre and relevant organisations, Xinhua reported.

Tiangong 1 was launched in 2011 and ended service in 2016 after completing its mission.

The United States Air Force 18th Space Control Squadron, which tracks and detects all artificial objects in Earth's orbit, said it had also tracked the Tiangong-1 in its re-entry over the South Pacific.

China's Tiangong-1 space lab re-entered the Earth's atmosphere around 8.15 a.m. Monday (8:15 p.m. ET Sunday) in a fiery fall, China's Manned Space Agency said.

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The Tiangong-1, whose name translates as "Heavenly Palace 1", had previously docked with Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 spacecraft, and was visited by six astronauts, including two females. The exact timing of the space lab's return to Earth was fine-tuned over the following days.

Launched in 1986, the Mir station was once a proud symbol of Soviet success in space, despite a series of high-profile accidents and technical problems.

China plans to finalise its space station to rival Mir, the Russian space station now in orbit by 2022.

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Skylab was the first American space station, launched by NASA in 1973, and was crewed until 1974. The flaming debris from the 80-tonne craft was caught streaking across the sky over the southern U.S. by local TV stations, with tens of thousands of the doomed shuttle's parts scattered over Texas and Louisiana.

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