The falling Chinese space station Tiangong-1 is tumbling in orbit and may crash back to Earth early Easter Sunday (April 1), experts say. Estimates for the crash of Tiangong-1 range sometime between March 31 and April 1, with a focus of 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT) on April 1, according to Aerospace Corp., which is tracking the space lab’s fall.
That April 1 target comes with an error of 16 hours, so the spacecraft could potentially begin its fiery death dive anytime between Saturday and Sunday afternoon. An analysis by the European Space Agency also supports that re-entry estimate.
Currently, Tiangong-1 is expected to fall to Earth somewhere between the latitudes of 42.7 degrees north and 42.7 degrees south, a range that spans the border of South Dakota and Nebraska in the north and Tasmania in the south. As re-entry day nears for Tiangong-1, satellite trackers will be able to make more refined predictions for where and when it will crash.
Chinese officials claim the station will mostly burn up in the atmosphere and will resemble nothing more than a brief meteor shower.
More from the Washington Post:
While the threat of the debris hitting a human is extremely small, the drama that could unfold this weekend may be only be a first glimpse into a problem that will worsen over the next decades, according to some bleak predictions.
The European Space Agency estimates that there are now more than 170 million pieces of space debris in circulation, though only 29,000 of those are larger than about four inches.
While the smaller space debris objects may not pose a threat to Earth because they would disintegrate before reaching the surface, “any of these objects can cause harm to an operational spacecraft. For example, a collision with a (four-inch) object would entail a catastrophic fragmentation of a typical satellite,” according to the European Space Agency.
— SPACE.com (@SPACEdotcom) March 29, 2018