China’s Tiangong-1 Space Station will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere at some point between March 30 and April 3 (probably).
We’ve known since 2016 that there was a problem with China’s Tiangong-1 “Heavenly Place 1” Space Station. In March 2016 the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) announced Tiangong-1 had reached the end of its life, but also that it had lost the telemetry link with the craft. From that point on, it was doomed.
The problem is, when you have an out of control craft circling the Earth in a decaying orbit, you can’t predict very accurately when it will re-enter the atmosphere. In October last year, things became a little clearer and a prediction of an April crash was given. Now the European Space Agency is offering an even more accurate prediction: Tiangong-1 could fall back to Earth as early as next Friday, March 30.
The ESA makes it clear that the estimated window of re-entry is “highly variable,” but for now the station is expected to fall between March 30 and April 3. We also don’t know where it will fall exactly, but more accurate predictions about that will appear a couple of days before it happens.
The good news is, there’s only a one in a trillion chance debris from the falling space station will hit humans. Most of the station is expected to burn up during re-entry. Any debris that doesn’t is expected to be very small and hopefully ends up falling into water rather than on land.