An artist’s impression of Tiangong 1 in orbit. Image Credit: CMSE
Launched back in 2011, Tiangong 1 – or ‘Heavenly Place’ – was part of China’s efforts to assert itself as a major player in the space industry and to create a manned orbital laboratory for scientific research.
Last year however, following months of speculation over peculiarities observed in Tiangong 1’s orbit, China’s CNSA space agency revealed that it had lost control of the station and that it would be plummetting back to Earth, sparking fears over the risk of falling debris.
Most recently, it has emerged that the station’s descent has accelerated and that there is a high chance that it will crash-land either before the end of this year or at the beginning of the next.
While it is next to impossible to predict exactly where it will come down, the chances of it striking a populated area are extremely remote and it is a lot more likely to fall in to the ocean.
Most of the debris will have also burnt up in the atmosphere long before it reaches the ground.