Tiangong-1 Chinese space station is ready to fall to Earth

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The time for Tiangong-1’s uncontrolled descent remains highly uncertain. If the sun is active, its energy pushes more strongly against Earth’s atmosphere. The density of the atmosphere affects the drag against Tiangong-1’s orbital speed. As Tiangong-1 loses energy due to drag, it falls towards Earth. Tiangong-1’s predicted re-entry time has been adjusted repeatedly in recent days because the sun was quieter than predicted. China launched Tiangong-1 in 2011 and remained active for five years, hosting two astronaut crews and one uncrewed docking mission.

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They lost contact with the station in 2016. In 2016, China launched a successor space station, called Tiangong-2, which remains active today. Tiangong-1 orbits Earth with an inclination between 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south latitudes, so theoretically it could fall under any location on that path. Some areas are more likely than others. Experts expect Tiangong-1 to break up in the heat and stress of atmospheric reentry, and say it’s likely any remaining pieces will be small, and scattered over a large area. If you’re in the right place at the right time, and the sky is clear, it will be quite spectacularThe chances that impact will cause injury or death are very smaller.

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