China Space Station Re-enters Earth, Lands In South Pacific


Tiangong-1's uneventful demise caps off years of anxiety about where this spacecraft was going to come down.

The Chinese space agency had originally planned to bring the lab back in a more controlled way.

"Most parts were burned up in the re-entry process", the agency said.

The Chinese space module Tiangong-1 was launched on October 1, 2011, aboard a Long March rocket from the Gobi Desert, to carry out docking and orbit experiments in space.

The station may have landed northwest of Tahiti, Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said on Twitter.

Tiangong-1 also served as a prototype for a larger and more permanent 20-ton station: the Chinese large modular space station that China expects could be operational in 2022.

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On Sunday night, April 1, it met its doom as it largely burned up upon re-entry over the Southern Pacific Ocean at 8:16 p.m. last night.

Moments before the re-entry of Tiangong-1, China's Space agency had wrongly predicted that the space module would renter off Sao Paulo, Brazil and would burn up over the Atlantic.

"The JFSCC works alongside government, industry and global partners to track and report reentries, to include today's Tiangong-1 reentry, because the space domain is vital to our shared worldwide security interests", Major General Stephen Whiting, of the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, said in a statement. Earlier, Chinese space officials had promised that the disintegration of the 10.4-meter-long spacelab, upon re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere would offer a "splendid" show akin to a meteor shower. In fact, a person's lifetime risk of getting hit by space debris is one in 1 trillion, according to the Aerospace Corporation, a nonprofit that provides research and guidance on space missions.

China in 2003 became the third country able to launch humans into space, following the former Soviet Union and the United States. It has docked with Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 spacecraft, and undertaken a series of tasks, making important contributions to China's manned space cause.

China's space program has made rapid progress since it launched its first crewed mission in 2003 - becoming only the third country after Russian Federation and the do so - including placing a rover on Mars and conducting a spacewalk.

It hosted China's first woman astronaut, Liu Yang of the Shenzhou IX mission.