China’s space station ambitious project is not without risks for all the others. Part of a huge rocket that launched China’s first module for its Tianhe space station is falling back to Earth. The Long March 5B entered a temporary orbit, setting the stage for one of the largest ever uncontrolled re-entries, at an unknown landing point. The rocket’s core stage, when empty, is about 21 metric tons in mass. “It’s potentially not good,” said Jonathan McDowell, Astrophysicist at the Astrophysics Center at Harvard University, remembering that previously „last time they launched a Long March 5B rocket they ended up with big long rods of metal flying through the sky and damaging several buildings in the Ivory Coast.” On Tuesday the core was orbiting Earth around every 90 minutes at about 27,600km/h and an altitude of more than 300km. Some pieces of the rocket will survive re-entry and that it would be the “equivalent of a small plane crash scattered over 100 miles”.
Based on its current orbit the rocket is passing over Earth as far north as New York, Madrid and Beijing and as far south as southern Chile and Wellington, New Zealand, and could make its re-entry at any point within this area. It’s expected to return to Earth on 10 May, plus or minus two days. Experts could predict its landing time within a six-hour window. Despite the threat it is most likely to splash in one of the world’s oceans or in an isolated area. The Chinese space program is a source of huge national pride.