China says the rocket heading toward Earth uncontrolled will mostly burn up when it reenters the atmosphere, suggesting it won’t harm anyone.
China downplayed the risks of its rocket traveling uncontrolled toward Earth, saying most of it will burn upon reentry into the atmosphere.
The Long March 5B rocket took off from China on April 29, and a big chunk is now heading back toward Earth in an uncontrolled reentry.
The Long March 5B rocket carrying China’s Tianhe space station core module lifted off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in southern China’s Hainan province April 29, 2021. Known as the Heavenly Harmony, the space station will be China’s first to host astronauts long-term.
It is not clear where the remains will land, and the US said it was expected to come down this weekend.
But China said there was little risk of harm.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbing said on Friday, according to The Associated Press: “As far as I understand, this type of rocket adopts a special technical design, and the vast majority of the devices will be burnt up and destructed during the reentry process, which has a very low probability of causing harm to aviation activities and the ground.”
And he said China would give details about the rocket’s reentry in a “timely manner.”
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Thursday the US military didn’t have plans to shoot down the remnants.
“We have the capability to do a lot of things, but we don’t have a plan to shoot it down as we speak,” he said.
“We’re hopeful that it will land in a place where it won’t harm anyone. Hopefully in the ocean, or someplace like that,” he added.
US Space Command, a branch of the US military, said it was tracking the fragments.
The nonprofit Aerospace Corp. said it expected the debris to hit the Pacific near the equator.
In a related story:
Remnants of China’s largest rocket launched last month plunged back through the atmosphere on Sunday, landing west of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean and ending days of speculation over where the debris would hit.
“After monitoring and analysis, at 10:24 [02:24 GMT] on May 9, 2021, the last-stage wreckage of the Long March 5B Yao-2 launch vehicle has reentered the atmosphere,” the China Manned Space Engineering Office said in a statement.
It added most of the components burned up in the re-entry.