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Chinese Rocket Being Tracked, Unlikely to Cause Harm

Rebecca Bowen Rebecca Bowen
8th May 2021
Chinese Rocket Being Tracked, Unlikely to Cause Harm
Chances low for the rocket pieces to cause harm (Screenshot).

The Claim

A huge Chinese rocket is going to crash to Earth and could land on cities.

Emerging story

 In April, China launched its newest rocket to take a developing Chinese space station, Tianhe. Since then, part of the rocket called the main booster has been in orbit, slowly descending towards the Earth. As it is expected to enter the atmosphere this weekend and mass media sources began reporting on it, social media users finally caught wind of the story.

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Misbar’s Analysis

MIsbar’s analysis found some truth and some fervor to the story. Our atmosphere increasingly fills with space junk. As the Earth’s mass creates a gravitational pull, some of that stuff comes back to the ground. China launched the rocket, the Long March 5B, for the first time last year. Due to unconventional design, New York unknowingly survived part of the rocket’s engines falling by a 15-20 minute window.

Most countries choose to use a controlled re-entry for any of their space-faring vessels. This allows the pieces to land in the ocean, far away from people and cities. China ignores this safety precaution, as it ignores some others–like assuring your launchpads are not close enough to burn your villages. 

Fortunately, a large part of the falling debris will burn up on re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere, like a meteor or any other falling space junk that never makes it to the Earth’s surface. But this rocket is enormous: 10 stories tall and 21 metric tons. Some of it will reach the surface.

A Twitter account run by The Aerospace Corporation describes itself as an “independent corporation” that “performs objective technical analyses and assessments for a variety of government, civil, and commercial customers,” provides that up-to-date tracking and predictions for the falling rocket’s trajectory. At this time, they are predicting the rocket to fall into the ocean to the east of Australia, but close enough, people are concerned.

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Experts, including Harvard-Smithsonian Institute for Astrophysics astronomer Jonathan McDowell, say the chances are meager of the rocket pieces causing harm. Statistically, 70% of the Earth is covered in ocean, especially the area of expected “landfall” for the parts of this rocket. So, while there is a chance of an inhabited area being struck by debris, it is a low chance.

Misbar’s Classification


Misbar’s Sources

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