A defunct uncontrolled Chinese space laboratory is set to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere on Monday and expected to fall anywhere from Australia to the US, Chinese officials said on Sunday.
China’s Tiangong-1 space station, which is falling towards earth, was reported to have been 179 km outside the earth’s atmosphere by Sunday noon (local time), China Manned Space Agency was quoted as saying by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.
The agency, however, did not provide an exact arrival time or likely landing site for abandoned eight-tonne Tiangong, a Chinese name for Heavenly Palace.
The European Space Agency forecast the space laboratory’s re-entry for about 7.25 am on Monday (local time).
Authorities in the US state of Michigan were taking no chances, however, and had put emergency teams on standby in preparation for the possibility of it landing on their patch, it said.
Chinese officials said the falling debris will not cause much damage as small amounts of the space lab’s fuel will be burnt together with other parts on its re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere.
“It will not cause damage to objects on earth nor produce toxic substances,” Chinese military officials said earlier.
On Thursday, Chinese Defence spokesman Col Ren Gouging said China has briefed all relevant international agencies, including the UN, about the re-entry of the spacelab.
Launched in September 2011, Tiangong-1 was an experimental space lab with designed life of two years.
The lab completed its main missions in June, 2013.