A defunct Chinese space laboratory disintegrated under intense heat as it hurtled through Earth's atmosphere yesterday and plunged into a watery grave in the South Pacific, Chinese officials said. "The Tiangong-1 space lab re-entered Earth's atmosphere Monday morning, landing in the middle of the South Pacific".
But the Chinese government told the United Nations in May 2017 that its space lab had "ceased functioning" in March 2016, without saying exactly why. "In some ways it's like watching meteors in the sky except this one was created by humans", Jung said. The time for re-entry has been confirmed as 00:16 GMT, by the US Joint Force Space Command Component (JFSCC).
As reported by BBC, it was astronomer Jonathan McDowell who took to his Twitter account to confirm that the exact location of Tiangong-1's re-entry was towards the north-west of Tahiti, an island in the Pacific Ocean. "That's the downside of it coming down over the ocean". Tiangong-1 had not been occupied for three years, so there was no way of knowing for certain where it would land. Indeed, the space station's case highlights the fact that scientists still don't have the necessary technology or research to wrangle the significant number of variables that factor into tracking and modeling such situations.
Tiangong was the China's first space station and was launched back in 2011. While they expected most of the derelict station to burn up as it entered the atmosphere, there was concern that small pieces that survived reentry could cause damage if they fell in a populated area.
Around noon Eastern time on April 1, eight hours before the craft actually crashed, the European Space Agency (ESA) had reached the limit of what it could forecast.
Space officials had said that the 10.4m-long craft's atmospheric disintegration would offer a splendid show akin to a meteor shower.
"One of our missions, which we remain focused on, is to monitor space and the tens of thousands of pieces of debris that congest it, while at the same time working with allies and partners to enhance spaceflight safety and increase transparency in the space domain", said Maj.
It was not immediately clear if the remains of the space station, known as Tiangong-1, had been accounted for.
The 8.5 metric ton, 34-feet-long by 11-feet-wide (10.4 meters by 3.4 meters) prototype station, whose name means "Heavenly Palace" in Mandarin, was launched in September 2011.