Defunct Chinese space lab plunges back to Earth

Defunct Chinese space lab plunges back to Earth

The agency said: "Through monitoring and analysis by Beijing Aerospace Control Centre and related agencies, Tiangong 1 re-entered the atmosphere at about 8.15am, 2 April, Beijing time (1.15am GMT)".

Things went wrong in March 2016 when the China Manned Space Engineering Office announced Tiangong-1's service had ended, but also that the telemetry link to the station had been lost.

China launched its second space lab, Tiangong II, in September 2016.

The United States Air Force 18th Space Control Squadron, which tracks and detects all artificial objects in Earth's orbit, said it had also tracked the Tiangong-1 in its re-entry over the South Pacific.

The government, however, did not specify the reason.

Monday's re-entry put an end to months of speculation surrounding the fate of Tiangong I, which contributed greatly to China's ability to build a space station on its own.

Artist's rendering of China's Tiangong-1 space station.

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"The JFSCC works alongside government, industry and global partners to track and report reentries, to include today's Tiangong-1 reentry, because the space domain is vital to our shared worldwide security interests", Major General Stephen Whiting, of the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, said in a statement.

Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell explained to The Guardian that predicting where any could actually hit Earth's surface is next to impossible.

The last space outpost to drop was Russia's 135-ton Mir station in 2001, which made a controlled landing with most parts breaking up in the atmosphere.

Tiangong 1, whose name translates as "Heavenly Palace", had two modules, one for its solar panels and engines, and one for a pair of astronauts to live in and conduct experiments.

Ms Huang Weifen, deputy chief designer of the Astronaut Centre of China, said that the module provided "precious experience" for building a space station, Xinhua news agency reported. Two docking tests, one automated and one manual, were accomplished between Shenzhou-9 and Tiangong-1.

Let's hope that's the case with the next piece of space debris that rains down; there are over 21,000 objects larger than 4 inches big being tracked by the Department of Defense's U.S. Space Surveillance Network, and they're cruising at almost 18,000 miles per hour.

And finally, a rain of whatever remained sprinkled the South Pacific, northwest of Tahiti and fairly close to Samoa.

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