The Chinese rocket that landed on earth
Never in a million years did I think the world would have to worry about rockets randomly falling into the Earth’s atmosphere. It sounds like something you’d read in books or see in movies. But as of May 8th, 2021, the rocket was suspected to land somewhere on Earth. The question remained on where and if it was going to do any real damage.
What do we know about the rocket?
The long 5B rocket is approximately 53.7 meters long with a payload of 22 tonnes to low Earth-orbit. Its core has a 30-meter section ample to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. The rocket contains boosters as well which are used to augment the vehicle upon takeoff. It is said to travel at a whopping 18,000 miles per hour. The rocket was launched into space on April 29th, 2021 in the region of 160km by 375km or 99 miles by 233 miles when converted. That same day, the rocket began to lose sight causing a whirlwind of controversy and speculation as to where it would land if at all.
Does debris like this usually crash into Earth?
Typically, most debris burns up before entering the Earth’s atmosphere so it never truly has an impact on a surface level. Larger pieces, on the other hand, have the potential to infiltrate populated areas. CNN reports as of Last year, “one of the largest pieces of uncontrolled space debris ever passed directly over Los Angeles and Central Park in New York City before landing in the Atlantic Ocean.” If or when a rocket was to land on Earth, the safest place would be the ocean, considering it makes up the majority of Earth’s surface.
Is this the end?
According to spokesperson Mike Howard from the Department of Defense, “The rocket’s “exact entry point into the Earth’s atmosphere” can’t be pinpointed until within hours of reentry, but the 18th Space Control Squadron will provide daily updates on the rocket’s location through the Space Track website.” I can understand the heightened emotions and uncertainty as to where the rocket will land but it is not the end. Astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell from the University of Harvard can confirm that the risk of it causing physical harm to anyone is “incredibly tiny”.
Upon the arrival of the rocket into the Indian Ocean just west of the Maldives, China faces mass criticism for downplaying the issue. Considering it is China’s biggest rocket, a larger, more official statement should have been made. Although the rocket landed, there were no reports of the damage and were even called out by NASA and the US Space Agency for negligence and irresponsibility. China has since come out with statements firing back at NASA stating that China “has been closely tracking its trajectory and issued statements on the re-entry situation in advance,” says Hua Chunying.
Western media played a large role in the way this issue was covered and painted China out to be the bad guy. Granted, it is understandable as to why people are upset and worried. Nevertheless, Earth’s orbit has tons of debris within the atmosphere that have minimal effect on the physical surface.
This isn’t to say we shouldn’t worry, but just know it is normal.
Source (s): BBC News. (2021, May 9). Chinese rocket debris crashes into Indian Ocean – state media. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-57045058
LeBlanc, P. C. (2021a, May 8). Chinese rocket expected to crash into Earth this weekend – CNNPolitics. CNN https://edition.cnn.com/2021/05/08/politics/chinese-rocket-earth-reentry/index.html
Press Trust of India. (2021, May 11). China Plays Down Concerns Over Rocket Debris Falling In Indian Ocean. NDTV.Com. https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/china-plays-down-concerns-over-rocket-debris-falling-in-indian-ocean-2439162
Mastrangelo, D. (2021, May 10). China fires back after NASA’s criticism of rocket debris reentry. TheHill. https://thehill.com/policy/transportation/nasa/552576-china-fires-back-after-nasa-criticism-of-rocket-debris-reentry