Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Chinese space station is falling to Earth next year — but it’s the last thing to worry about

Sometime in late March of next year, a Chinese space station named Tiangong-1 is going to fall back down to Earth — and some big pieces may survive the reentry. The module’s descent has caused a bit of concern about debris raining form the sky. But in reality, a falling space station is the last thing anyone should be worried about.

Satellites and spacecraft fall to Earth all the time. Vehicles in lower orbits get bombarded by small particles in the planet’s upper atmosphere, and that eventually drags them downward. But usually, these falling objects are small enough or shaped in such a way that they’ll burn up safely while re-entering the atmosphere.

The problem with Tiangong-1 is that it’s rather massive

The problem with Tiangong-1 is...

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