First Images Of The Chinese Rocket Crashing To Earth Have Been Captured

This is the first image of the Chinese Long March 5B rocket that is falling to Earth in an uncontrolled descent.

After launching the first module of China’s upcoming space station into orbit, the 21-tonne rocket was supposed to crash down into the ocean. 

However, Chinese authorities lost the ability to control re-entry and now experts are scrambling to pinpoint where the 100-foot rocket will land. 

It will strike Earth sometime tomorrow, but according to the US Department of Defense, we won’t know exactly where until a few hours beforehand. 

The picture of the rocket re-entering the atmosphere was captured by the Italy-based Virtual Telescope Project.

The craft appears like a glowing light as it passes above the group’s ‘Elena’ robotic telescope. 

Gianluca Masi, an astronomer with the Virtual Telescope Project who snapped the image, explained: 

‘The sun was just a few degrees below the horizon, so the sky was incredibly bright: these conditions made the imaging quite extreme, but our robotic telescope succeeded in capturing this huge debris.’ 

‘This is another bright success, showing the amazing capabilities of our robotic facility in tracking these objects.

Although the idea of falling space debris may be scary, experts say the chances of the remnants hitting a populated area is very low.

 The launch was the first of 11 missions necessary to construct and provision the station and send up a three-person crew by the end of next year. 

At least 12 astronauts are training to fly to and live in the station, including veterans of previous flights, newcomers and the first Chinese women, with the first crewed mission, Shenzhou-12, expected to be launched by June.

When completed by late 2022, the T-shaped Chinese Space Station, called ‘Heavenly Harmony’, is expected to weigh about 66 tonnes. 

This will make it considerably smaller than the International Space Station, which launched its first module in 1998

. Tianhe will have a docking port and will also be able to connect with a powerful Chinese space satellite. Theoretically, it could be expanded to as many as six modules.

The station is designed to operate for at least 10 years. If the remains of the rocket were to cause any damage, China could potentially be liable. 

‘International law sets out a compensation regime that would apply in many circumstances of damage on Earth, as well as when satellites collide in space,’ explains Steven Freeland, professorial fellow, Bond University/emeritus professor of international law at Western Sydney University. 

‘The 1972 Liability Convention, a UN treaty, imposes liability on ‘launching states’ for damage caused by their space objects, which includes an absolute liability regime when they crash to Earth as debris. 

‘In the case of the Long March 5B, this would impose potential liability on China. The treaty has only been invoked once before (for the Cosmos 954 incident) and therefore may not be regarded as a powerful disincentive.’ 

‘However, it is likely to come into play in the future in a more crowded space environment, and with more uncontrolled reentries. Of course, this legal framework applies only after the damage occurs.’

Post a Comment