An illustration showing asteroids impacting Earth. Shutterstock.

A Chinese Rocket is Crashing Into Earth

Most of the rocket's body will be expected to burn upon reentry. However, large pieces are expected to "survive" re-entry.


It is unknown when or where the Chinese core stage, which weighs 25 tonnes (22.5 metric tons), will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere

According to the latest forecast by The Aerospace Corporation, the 25-tonne (22.5 metric tons) core stage of a Long March 5B rocket will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere at 2:05 pm EDT (1805 GMT). China’s Tiangong space station’s second module, Wentian, was lifted by the booster on July 24 and spent less than a week in orbit.


Most of the rocket’s body will be expected to burn upon reentry. However, large pieces are expected to survive, weighing between 5.5 and 9.9 tons.

Experts expect that the chunks of the core stage will land between 41 degrees north and 41 degrees south latitude, based on the orbit of the stage. It appears most of Europe and North Africa are out of the line of fire, according to the latest forecast. It is also likely that some debris pieces will fall several hundred kilometers apart, resulting in a large debris “footprint.”


Based on only geography, we can make some educated guesses about the rocket crash. Because oceans cover more than 70% of the Earth’s surface, Long March 5B’s core is likely to re-enter over water. Since most people live in large metropolitan areas separated by many miles of open space, even a fall onto dry land is unlikely to result in injury or infrastructure damage.

“There’s a ‘99.5% chance that nothing will happen,'” said Ted Muelhaupt, a consultant with The Aerospace Corporation’s Office of the Corporate Chief Engineer.

And while the percentage of nothing happening seems quite reassuring, when it comes to space debris crashing into Earth, we know that the 0.5 % is still at play. As a matter of fact, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule’s depressurized “trunk” crashed into a rural area in Australia on July 9; this is the last time space debris fell on land near a populated area.

As of January 2019, there were more than 128 million pieces of debris smaller than 1 cm (0.39 in) orbiting our planet. It is estimated that there are approximately 900,000 pieces from 1 cm to 10 cm in size. Currently, there are approximately 34,000 large debris orbiting Earth — (defined as those at least 10 cm wide).

Space debris that orbit the Earth are a real threat, not only to people on Earth but to the entire world’s space program. The growing population of space debris poses a risk to all space vehicles, including SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and the International Space Station.


Collisions with space debris pose a serious threat to the space station, and NASA has long-standing guidelines on how to deal with them. Known as flight rules, these guidelines specify when a piece of debris is likely to be close enough to increase the chances of a collision, requiring evasive action or other precautions to ensure crew safety.

Projects like this one are helping clean up space from trash humans have put there.

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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