The Chinese continue to increase their investment in space technology and exploration, but that doesn’t come without a fair share of challenges. China launched their first space station, Tiangong-1, in September 2011 as a crewed lab and experiment for a more ambitious multiple-module space station to launch sometime in the 2020s.
In March of 2016, the Chinese released an official statement saying they lost the telemetry link with Tiangong-1. Since losing control of the space station, it has slowly spiraled towards the Earth. It’s estimated to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere sometime in mid-March 2018. Where and when are the big questions fueling added curiosity to the eventual demise of Tiangong-1.
The only information to its possible crash site is a rather vague, ‘somewhere between 43 degrees North latitude and 43 degrees South latitude’. For those of us in the Western hemisphere you’re looking at an area between Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Trelew, Argentina; and near the Prime Meridian, somewhere between Marseille, France and the ocean betwixt South Africa and Prince Edward Island. In the Eastern hemisphere the impact area extends from Bishkek, Kyrgystan and Kato, Japan to the Indian Ocean and Cygnet, Tasmania.
The longitude and date of entry is entirely unknown, but don’t let that stop you from making an educated (or uneducated) guess. The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Orbital Reentry Debris Studies (CORDS) is taking guess from the general public on the date and time of reentry. The closest guess will win some free Aerospace swag. So give it your best shot. Your guess is as good as anyone else’s!
In other impact news, the Earth will have a close encounter of the asteroid kind on February 4th around 1:30 p.m. PST. Asteroid 2002 AJ129 will pass som 2.6 million miles (4.2 million kilometers) from Earth, that’s about 10 times the distance between the Moon and Earth. The asteroid is classified as intermediate in size, less than a mile in length and width. While classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA), there is no chance of it colliding with Earth during its flyby or in the next 100 years.
On January 16, 2018, some Michigan residents witnessed a meteor explode in the atmosphere, causing a 2.0 magnitude seismic event – a pretty cool event with brief videos of the explosion worth looking at!