No April Fools: ESA Says China's Tiangong-1 Space Station Crash Next Weekend May Be Deadly—And No One Can Stop It
After months of calculations, experts have been able to narrow down the window during which the Tiangong-1 space station and laboratory will fall back to Earth. It's been hard to pinpoint exactly when this event will occur, but now, it seems likely that it'll drop out of the sky at some point between March 30 and April 2, which just happens to be Good Friday through Easter weekend.
This prediction comes from the European Space Agency's (ESA) Space Debris Office in Darmstadt, Germany, which points out that this window is still "highly variable," as there are too many factors involved to be able to perfectly predict when the space station will begin its final descent.
As with any event with this level of uncertainty, experts are naturally arranging a pool to see who can get closest to the correct date and time for Tiangong-1's demise. While this is primarily for research purposes, no doubt the scientist who wins will feel very pleased with themselves.
This will take place as part of the Inter Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC)'s annual re-entry test campaign, which involves analyzing a piece of space junk's journey out of orbit in order to better understand what challenges and issues we can expect from orbital equipment in coming years.
Hosted by the ESA, this year's test campaign will see 13 space agencies and organizations from around the world joining together to compare predictions about the space station's journey.
This research and speculation are important—considering the space around planet Earth is filled with more and more junk and equipment, it's going to be increasingly important to know where large pieces of debris will be at any given time, and when and where people on Earth should expect junk to turn up.
Space litter is going to be an increasing problem, especially as more commercial rockets are sent up as part of missions designed around earning profits. Not only will this increase the amount of junk in orbit, but it'll also mean that there'll be more missions that could potentially run into danger as a result of an errant satellite.
The enormous, gaudy disco ball that was put into space recently by one tech startup ultimately made its way back to Earth a lot quicker than initially planned, which is an excellent example of how quickly things can go wrong when calculations surrounding orbits aren't entirely accurate.
No one knows where #Tiangong1 will reenter, but we do know odds of it harming someone are vanishingly small. Our scientists calculate odds of you being hit by Tiangong-1 debris are ~1mil times smaller than odds of winning Powerball jackpot – even if you live in 'high risk' areas. pic.twitter.com/ic6hSl7WD6— TheAerospaceCorp (@AerospaceCorp) March 13, 2018
As for Tiangong-1, scientists still aren't sure where the space station will land when chunks of it return to Earth. It'll probably fall somewhere between 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south latitude, but it's still impossible to know narrow this considerably large field down.
All we can do is hope that nobody's lazy Easter Sunday is ruined by a large chunk of falling space debris landing on the family barbecue.