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#923828 - 10/18/17 03:11 PM Asteroid to hit Earth? No, Chinese space station!  
Joined: May 2010
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Mona - Astronomy Offline
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Tiger

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Earth is at the mercy of space rocks, but we're also at the mercy of human space junk.

China's first space station Tiangong-1 (2011) was going to be the key to a larger space complex. Unfortunately their space agency lost control of in in September 2016. It looks like within a few months it will come crashing to Earth. It won't end civilization as we know it, but it's 8.5 tonnes worth and would do a heck of a lot of damage to a populated area.

The station's orbit has also been steadily decaying, and in recent weeks it has started to fall faster. The experts don't - alas! - know exactly when the space station drop out of orbit, or where the debris will land when it does. Chinese officials have predicted that it will come down to Earth between October 2017 and April 2018. Eek!

Last edited by Mona - Astronomy; 10/22/17 05:14 AM.

Mona Evans
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#923846 - 10/19/17 06:11 PM Re: Asteroid to hit Earth? No, Chinese space station! [Re: Mona - Astronomy]  
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An artist's representation of the Tiangong-1 or "Heavenly Palace" space station.

Jonathan McDowell, Harvard University astrophysicist told the Guardian newspaper, “I expect it will come down a few months from now – late 2017 or early 2018.”

Most of the spacecraft should burn up in the atmosphere, but some surviving parts could weigh up to 100kg when they crash. [But it probably won't harm anybody.]

There's no way to tell accurately where the pieces will land, even on the days near the landing. “You really can’t steer these things,” McDowell said in 2016. “Even a couple of days before it re-enters we probably won’t know better than six or seven hours, plus or minus, when it’s going to come down. Not knowing when it’s going to come down translates as not knowing where it’s going to come down.”


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#923892 - 10/22/17 05:12 AM Re: Asteroid to hit Earth? No, Chinese space station! [Re: Mona - Astronomy]  
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Tiangong-1 won't be the first space station to crash out of space.

Skylab was the NASA's first space station, orbiting from 1973 to 1979. It then fell back to Earth amid huge worldwide media attention.

In the hours before re-entry, NASA ground controllers tried to adjust Skylab's trajectory and orientation to try to minimize the risk of debris landing in populated areas. The attempted target was a spot 810 miles (1,300 km) south-southeast of Cape Town, South Africa.

Skylab's reentry began on July 11, 1979, and people on earth saw dozens of colorful firework-like flares as large pieces of the space station burned up in the atmosphere. But it didn't burn up as fast as NASA expected, and debris landed southeast of Perth in Western Australia, resulting in a debris path between Esperance and Rawlinna.


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#923946 - 10/24/17 04:57 AM Re: Asteroid to hit Earth? No, Chinese space station! [Re: Mona - Astronomy]  
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An amusing story related to Skylab debris. The San Francisco Examiner offered a $10,000 prize for the first piece of Skylab to be delivered to their offices within 72 hours.

An enterprising 17-year-old Australian boy in Esperance retrieved a few pieces of Skylab from the roof of his home and rushed off to San Francisco. Here is Stan Thornton delivering pieces of Skylab to collect the prize. He became quite a celebrity in the USA and Australia. The paper, making the most of the publicity, flew his family over to join him.

Of course, this is a story relating to a bygone age of innocence. He wouldn't be allowed on the plane today. No passport, no ESTA to get into the USA, and what was that weird stuff he was carrying?


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#923947 - 10/24/17 06:59 AM Re: Asteroid to hit Earth? No, Chinese space station! [Re: Mona - Astronomy]  
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Mona, that is a cool story and so true about today's security ... frown

#924100 - 10/31/17 06:11 PM Re: Asteroid to hit Earth? No, Chinese space station! [Re: Mona - Astronomy]  
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Soviet space station Salyut 7 orbited the Earth for nearly a decade. Not only was it showing its age, but a new space station was ready to take over. In 1986 its last inhabitants moved equipment from the Salyut to Mir. Salyut was then was boosted to a higher level to ensure that it didn't drop out of orbit before 1994.
Quote:
However, unexpectedly high solar activity in the late 1980s and early 1990s increased atmospheric drag on the station and sped its orbital decay. It finally underwent an uncontrolled reentry on 7 February 1991 over the town of Capitán Bermúdez in Argentina after it overshot its intended entry point, which would have placed its debris in uninhabited portions of the southern Pacific Ocean.


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#926704 - 03/06/18 11:31 AM Re: Asteroid to hit Earth? No, Chinese space station! [Re: Mona - Astronomy]  
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The Chinese space station Tiangong-1 is expected finally to fall out of orbit and enter the atmosphere sometime around the beginning of April. It's losing altitude more quickly now, but still impossible to say when the event will occur and where any debris may fall. Most of it will burn up as it comes through the atmosphere. (Remember, that's why spacecraft have heat shields!)

Calculations made by ESA (European Space Agency) say the module will come down between 24 March and 19 April. Research organization Aerospace predict the re-entry at somewhere between 43° north and 43° south latitudes. No one can narrow it down any further right now, and even closer to the event, time and locality is unpredictable.

Selfishly, I can be glad to be well north of 43°. But to put everyone's mind at rest, Aerospace says
Quote
When considering the worst-case location … the probability that a specific person (ie, you) will be struck by Tiangong-1 debris is about one million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot.


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#926741 - 03/09/18 03:45 AM Re: Asteroid to hit Earth? No, Chinese space station! [Re: Mona - Astronomy]  
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that's good news. Hopefully, it will completely burn up in the re-entry.

#926942 - 03/22/18 03:48 PM Re: Asteroid to hit Earth? No, Chinese space station! [Re: Mona - Astronomy]  
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SatNav is keeping track of Tiangong-1. They have it coming down on April 3rd. You can watch their countdown. I wonder how close their prediction will be.


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#926957 - 03/23/18 10:01 PM Re: Asteroid to hit Earth? No, Chinese space station! [Re: Mona - Astronomy]  
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The final stage of the controlled deorbit of Mir, the Soviet space station, occurred 17 years ago - March 23, 2001. The video is a short one about Mir and the deorbit strategy.


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