Chinese Space Station Crash

Brandon Bybee, Columnist

On March, 31, 2018, China’s first space station crashed into the Pacific Ocean at 5:16 p.m. The station, Tiangong-1, about the size of a bus, was floating just above the Earth’s atmosphere when it suddenly went off the radar. The station’s purpose was both as a general scientific laboratory, and as an experimental module to test docking and orbital rendezvous, among other things. According to The New York Times, there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage, but radar stations were worried because they didn’t know where the station would land. Tiangong-1 may have landed somewhere northwest of Tahiti, an island in the Pacific Ocean, but Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said that it is north of Spacecraft Cemetery, a common place for space debris to land. The cause of this crash has apparently been anticipated for many years.

The Chinese lost control of Tiangong-1 a couple of years ago after the station went off the radar and no one knew why. The New York Times also said that because of the drag of air molecules bouncing off Tiangong-1, the station’s altitude dropped, causing it to descend quickly over the past few days. Multiple radar stations predicted that the station would crash on April 1, but because it was moving so fast it was hard to tell where it would land. said China launched Tiangong-1 (which translates to “heavenly palace”) in 2011, and all was well for a few years. In 2016, China officially announced that it lost communication with the station.

China successfully launched another station, Tiangong-2, and it is still in orbit. They have plans to build bigger and better stations in the future that will do what these stations can’t. Tiangong-1 isn’t the biggest or strongest space station, but it built a frame for future stations and how they could work in the future. Tiangong-3’s launch was delayed from its original launch in 2015, and is now spectated to launch around 2022, and China plans to launch more and more stations that are powerful and efficient in the future.