For those of you who haven’t been obsessively following this over the last few months you may be a little out of the loop. Today marks the day where it is guesstimated that China’s out of control space station Tiangong-1 is going to crash into the Earth – and where will it do this you may ask? The answer – nobody is actually quite sure.
Launched in 2011 the station was supposed to be China’s stepping stone to a larger space station in orbit by 2033, but shit went bad. Due to China not playing ball and instead trying to sweep a mistake under the rug, nobody is 100% sure exactly when they lost control of the station, but the best guess seems to be 2016. Point is the hunk of space metal is coming for us.
Since then people a lot smarter than your average pundit have been keeping an eye on the thing and attempting to figure out where and when it is going to land. The problem with doing this comes down to the shape of the station – as it’s out of control the thing is constantly turning so it’s shape is continually changing. Add into this stuff like solar activity being quieter than estimated and you can quickly get an idea why an equation designed to figure this out for normal re-entry can’t be used.
That said if it does manage to land on you, you’re probably the single unluckiest person who’s ever lived. Anxiety over this has kept me up the last few days so the following statistics have helped me in my time of need. You’re 10 million times more likely to be struck by lightning. There has never been a confirmed death from space debris. Scientists reckon they should be able to get an accurate location for the landing an hour before it crashes. Most NZ phones can now receive emergency alerts. Take what little comfort you can in this.
On the off chance you end up in the astronomically unlikely situation that the debris does fall close to you, as 20 – 40% is expected to make it through reentry, then the main piece of advice is not to fucking touch it. If the whole clusterfuck of an out of control space station wasn’t enough, the thing may be carrying a very very unfriendly corrosive chemical on board. If the station is in fact carrying Hydrazine it can be known to cause seizures, coma and death. Seriously do not touch the debris friends.
So if you’re like me and you’re not going to be able to sleep a good night’s sleep until the space station is in what we hope will be a watery grave, then the good nerds over at Space.com have got your back with the latest updates as they come.