A Chinese rocket that is out of control is set to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere this weekend, bringing a final wave of concern before its debris makes an impact somewhere on Earth.
Debris from a large Chinese rocket landed in the Indian Ocean on Sunday, according to the China Manned Space Engineering Office, which said most parts had burned up on reentry.
The uncontrolled nature of the rocket’s fall to Earth had left experts concerned about the potential impact it could have on inhabited areas. Earlier in the week, some space trackers had predicted that it could have landed as far north as New York.
The Long March 5B rocket, which is around 30 metres tall and weighs 20 tonnes, is expected to enter Earth’s atmosphere “around May 8”, according to a statement from Defence Department spokesperson Mike Howard, who said the US Space Command is tracking the rocket’s trajectory.
The rocket’s “exact entry point into the Earth’s atmosphere” can’t be pinpointed until within hours of re-entry, Howard said, but the 18th Space Control Squadron is providing daily updates on the rocket’s location through the Space Track website.
Potential landings over land are subject to change, but currently include the Southeastern U.S., Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, parts of Southern Europe, much of Northern and Central Africa, the Middle East, Southern India and Australia.