The Chinese space station Tiangong-1 has been spinning out of control since September of 2016. Launched in 2011, it served as a demonstration of important space docking technology and was scheduled to remain in orbit until 2020. However, the Chinese lost control of the craft and now the world awaits it’s eventual demise.
Reference: here is an illustration of Tiangong-1 by the manufacturer CAST pic.twitter.com/ElrbndsWY4
— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) March 7, 2018
The problem is – no one is exactly sure where it will land and if the atmosphere will simply burn away most of station or if some of the debris will make it to earth.
In its latest report, the Aerospace Corporation identified northern China, central Italy, northern Spain, the Middle East, New Zealand, Tasmania, South America, southern Africa and northern states in the U.S. as regions with higher chances. An Aerospace graphic shows that parts of southern Lower Michigan fall into the regions listed with the highest probability of debris landing.
Predicting exactly where it will land is a tricky business, according to Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell.
“Remember that a 1 hour error in our guessed reentry time corresponds to an 27000 km (17000 mile) error in the reentry position. And currently our estimate has a 2 week uncertainty.”
The 8.5 ton craft is estimated to crash by or around April 3rd. There is a 10-40 percent chance that portions of it will survive reentry.
Should people in lower Michigan start preparing for an apocalypse?
The Aerospace Corporation says probably not. There is no recorded incident of anyone on earth ever being killed by space debris and the odds are extremely small…1 million times smaller than the odds of winning Powerball.
But if you live in lower Michigan, maybe you should stock up on beer and Spam just in case.