The Chinese “Long March 5B” missile out of control sparked panic among the world’s population and those interested in space sciences, amid speculation of when and where it would fall on Earth.
Chinese missile will enter the atmosphere
CNN published a report about the Chinese missile, which has gone out of control, which is expected to enter the Earth’s atmosphere at the end of this week, and said it is not the first time that this happens.
The report began by recalling similar incidents that occurred previously, and explained that “debris from space reached Earth several times, the most recent of which was last year.”
The good news is that debris is falling towards the ground, and although a cause for concern, it does not pose a major safety threat. “It’s not the end of the world,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard University.
The Chinese missile raised new questions about space debris, the uncontrolled return to Earth, and the necessary precautions that should be taken in such cases.
Pieces of Chinese missile debris will burn into the casing
On how uncontrolled space debris collides with the Earth, most of the pieces will burn in the Earth’s atmosphere before they reach the surface, but larger parts of objects, such as rockets, can enter through the atmosphere and reach populated areas.
And last year, one of the largest uncontrolled pieces of space debris passed directly over Los Angeles and Central Park in New York City before landing in the Atlantic Ocean.
The weight of the debris, about 20 tons, is an empty part of the Chinese missile, and it is considered the largest piece of space to fall uncontrollably on Earth since 1991 and the fourth largest piece in the world to fall to Earth.
The largest pieces of Chinese missile remnants were from NASA’s “Skylab Space Station” in 1979, a piece of the Skylab rocket in 1975, and the “Salyut 7” space station of the Soviet Union in 1991. The space shuttle “Columbia” from 2003 can be added To that list since NASA lost control of it upon its landing and back on Earth.
The US Defense Department said, on Wednesday, that the bulk of the missile launched by a Chinese space station is expected to fall into Earth early Saturday in an unknown location.
Similar incidents are few because space agencies around the world try to avoid leaving large objects in orbit, which have the ability to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, because they cannot control them.
McDowell said that there are no rules, controls, international law, or a rule governing space waste, and it is limited to the practices of some countries. As for “larger missiles,” he said, “Let’s not leave our waste in orbit this way.”
He pointed out that the Chinese missile, which is scheduled to enter the Earth’s atmosphere at the end of this week, is designed in a way that “leaves large pieces of it in low orbit, and this is not good compared to what other space agencies do that avoid doing so.”
According to the report, the debris floating in space is estimated at 9,000 tons of scrap, equivalent to the weight of 720 school buses, which is hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of objects orbiting in an uncontrolled orbit.
The debris includes pieces of spent missiles, malfunctioning satellites and debris from military displays of anti-satellite missiles. The debris is highly concentrated in areas of the orbit closest to the Earth’s surface.
Although debris does not pose a great threat to humans on Earth, it affects a large number of active satellites that provide services such as weather tracking, Earth’s climate study and communications, and debris also threatens the International Space Station.
“Just a few years ago, we had about 1,000 satellites in orbit, and now we have more than 4,000 satellites,” McDowell said.
Loss of control of the missile
In the context, the head of the Egyptian National Institute for Astronomical and Geophysical Research, Gad Al-Qadhi, said that control of the missile had been lost and was in an attempt to return uncontrolled to Earth.
He pointed out that this came after its launch from the Chinese space station, as it is likely that part of the Chinese “Long March 5B” missile, which was used to launch the first unit of the Chinese space station last week, will fall to the Earth’s atmosphere in the coming days.
He added, “It is unclear when and where the debris will land, while the available data from space object monitoring sites indicate the possibility of it entering the Earth’s atmosphere on May 9th.”
In the context, Susan Samuel, Associate Professor of the Sun and Space Research Department at the institute, said, “China launched the first unit of its space station into orbit late on April 28, 2021.
She added, “The” Long March 5B “missile successfully launched the” Tianhe “unit, weighing 22.5 tons, from Wenchang, on Thursday local time, and” Tianhe “separated from the main body of the launcher after 492 seconds of flight, and directly entered its first planned orbit.
She added, “But the mission launcher,” Long March 5B “, also reached orbit, heading unexpectedly to Earth, which weighs approximately 21 tons and is about 30 meters long.
Orbit around the Earth
The data indicate that this missile is orbiting in orbit around the Earth at altitudes ranging from 160 to 260 km and at an average speed of slightly more than 28,000 km, which makes it complete a full rotation around the Earth in about 90 minutes in an elliptical orbit, according to the international expert.
She noted that “Long March 5B” was specifically designed to launch space station units in low Earth orbit, and uniquely uses a base part (base stage) and four side boosters to directly place its payload in low Earth orbit.
And she continued: “However, this basic stage is now also in orbit and is likely to re-enter uncontrolled in the coming days as the increased interaction with the atmosphere leads to its attraction to Earth.”
“If this is the case, it will be one of the largest cases of uncontrolled re-entry of a spacecraft, while there are unconfirmed possibilities that it will land on a populated area, as the rocket orbits the Earth approximately every 90 minutes,” Samuel added.
And she continued: “Therefore, changing just a few minutes in the return time leads to a return point thousands of kilometers away, and the orbital inclination of the” Long March 5B “base stage is estimated at 41.5 degrees.
And she continued: “This means that the missile body passes a little north away from New York, Madrid, Beijing and even southern Chile and Wellington, New Zealand, and it can re-enter at any point within this region.”
She emphasized that it is impossible so far to predict where and when the “Long March 5B” will land, and the speed of this process depends on the size and density of the body and depends on several other variables, including weather fluctuations, and other variables, which themselves are affected by solar activity and other factors.
A number of international space experts had warned that a Chinese missile body, “the main part of the launch vehicle, which weighs about 20 tons”, that carried the Chinese spacecraft, had fallen on the ground in the next few days after it was used to launch the basic unit of the new Chinese space station, pointing out that This major part cannot be steered and has no path to fall into the sea at a predetermined point.
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