China's very first space lab, Tiangong-1, has reached the end of its service life and will plunge to Earth sometime in March of 2018.
China’s first space lab is plummeting to Earth very soon, but fortunately it doesn’t appear to pose any threat to humans. The Aerospace Corporation states that Tiangong-1 likely will start entering the atmosphere sometime in March and will impact with the ground somewhere on Earth not long after.
Tiangong-1 has been in space since 2011 as one of China’s first major efforts at becoming a world space power. The station was originally only intended to last two years, but it was extended for more experiments. However, it appears that its time orbiting the Earth has finally run out, and it will plunge to its death very soon.
In reality, not much of the lab will actually hit Earth, as experts expect it to mostly burn up during its descent. Authorities aren’t quite sure where the pieces of Tiangong-1 will end up landing, but right now it looks like it will happen mostly over the ocean but possibly over countries including the U.S. Brazil, and China – so quite a large area.
“Where will Tiangong-1 reenter? It is a well known scientific principle that any measurement or prediction will always have an associated uncertainty,” reads a FAQ from Aerospace Corporation. “In the case of most reentering objects, the uncertainty associated with predicting reentry location is extremely large and precludes an accurate location prediction until shortly before the reentry has occured. In general, it is much easier to predict an accurate reentry time rather than an accurate reentry location. Based on Tiangong-1’s inclination, however, we can confidently say that this object will reenter somewhere between 43° North and 43° South latitudes.”