A Chinese space station will crash into Earth in a matter of months - and it could kill anyone who is standing beneath. The 8.5-ton Tiangong-1, or “Heavenly Palace”, satellite is now out of control and is doomed to plunge into the atmosphere, a top academic has warned.
“I expect it will come down a few months from now – late 2017 or early 2018,” Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard University astrophysicist, told The Guardian.
He previously warned that there was no way of telling exactly where the space station was going to plunge to Earth.
“You really can’t steer these things,” he said last year. “Even a couple of days before it re-enters we probably won’t know better than six or seven hours, plus or minus, when it’s going to come down.”
The station will reduce significantly in size as the Earth's atmosphere burns it up. However, large chunks of metal could still fall to Earth and injure or kill anyone standing the impact site. A spokesperson for China's space agency said: "Based on our calculation and analysis, most parts of the space lab will burn up during falling."
But a huge clump of metal could still rain down on unwitting victims. He added:
“There will be lumps of about 100 [kilograms] or so, still enough to give you a nasty wallop if it hit you.”
As well as building a space station, it intends to eventually put one of its citizens on the surface of the moon. In April, China vowed to send a craft to orbit Mars, land and deploy a rover to explore the surface by 2020.