In an international news, 21-ton Chinese rocket Long March 5B-rocket is falling uncontrollably to Earth and all the scientists are uncertain on its crashing site. On Wednesday it was announced that US Department of Defence will be tracking the debris of the rocket that’s set to crash on Earth later this weekend.
The CNN reported today that Pentagon spokesperson Mr. Mike Howard said that,” U.S. Space Command is aware of and tracking the location of the Chinese Long March 5B in space, but its exact entry point into the Earth’s atmosphere cannot be pinpointed until within hours of its reentry, which is expected around May 8.”
Such an uncontrollable landing can have immediate consequences. If the debris crashes on an area inhabited by human populations, the impact could be similar to that of a small plan crashing over 100 miles.
Read this before you panic
Before you hit the panic button and break the lockdown to find a safe space, let us give you the good news. The chances of you being hit by the debris is minimal. According to Mr. Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard University, due to the fact that the Pacific Ocean covers most of Earth’s surface, it’s likely that the debris will splash somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. “I would not lose one second of sleep over this,” he added.
What happened to the Long March 5B?
On April 29, 2021, the Chinese sent the rocket from Wenchang in Hainan province of China. The rocket carried “Heavenly Harmony, an unmanned core module that continued the living quarters for three astronauts. After deploying the module to the new space station, the rocket transitioned into the temporary orbit of Earth. This set up a course of uncontrolled reentry towards Earth.
On May 4, the debris was orbiting around the planet at the speed of 27,600 km/h and was seen at an altitude of over 300 km. Prior to that, it was seen to have dropped nearly 80 km in altitude last weekend. According to SpaceNews, the debris was tumbling and not under control and thus it makes it impossible to predict where it may land when it tears the Earth’s atmosphere.
Can the Chinese rocket fall on Indian soil?
As per its orbit calculated on May 4, the rocket was passing over the planet and would have later passed regions like New York, Madrid, Beijing and then would reach the farthest corners of South such as Wellington, New Zealand. Given the unpredictable nature of the incident, the debris could make the free-fall at any of these places.
Mr. Jonathan McDowell who we mentioned earlier gave some cause of concern and said, “It’s potentially not good. 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. Most of it burned up, but there were these enormous pieces of metal that hit the ground. We are very lucky no one was hurt.”
According to the European Space Agency, another agency that’s been tracking the developments of the debris, the mass of the rocket is unknown due to which it is extremely difficult to predict where the rocket may fall. Rocket’s mass plays an important variable in predicting the crash course because through mass a rocket’s ‘de-orbiting’ and landing is controlled. Since China’s Long March-5 rockets use uncontrolled re-entries, the entire world is waiting for the crash with a bated breath.
So, when is the rocket going to fall?
“We expect it to reenter sometime between the eighth and 10th of May. And in that two-day period, it goes around the world 30 times. The thing is traveling at like 18,000 miles an hour. And so, if you’re an hour out at guessing when it comes down, you’re 18,000 miles out in saying where,” said Harvard University’s astrophysicist McDowell.
He also urged people to not believe those who are extremely sure about the crashing site of the debris. “You should not believe anyone who tells you, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve heard it’s coming down in this particular place,” Mr. McDowell said. “Don’t believe them at least a few hours before the reentry because we’re just not going to know in advance,” he added.