Science

Space: the remains of a Chinese rocket threaten to fall to Earth

It is the fear that comes from the Gauls, which always makes us smile. This time, not the sky, but a fragment of a rocket may fall on our heads. According to the Aerospace Corporation, an American company specializing in the aerospace industry, this Sunday, July 31, large space debris should make an “uncontrolled reentry” into the atmosphere and, therefore, fall to Earth. This piece, which is a cylinder 33 meters long and weighing more than 20 tons, was a stage of a Chinese Long March 5V rocket that went into space on July 24 to launch a secondary module around China’s space station. If the module was attached correctly, the rocket part will now float freely in space.

I must say that the Long March-5B rocket has a peculiarity compared to its counterparts: it has only one stage, while others have two. In the vast majority of cases, the first stage of a rocket provides the first thrust before lifting off at a safe location. Then the second floor, much smaller, takes over. But on the Long March 5B rocket, the first stage does all the work. “Usually, the first stage of a rocket and its accompanying boosters are not designed to enter orbit,” Aerospace Corporation explains. Indeed, letting a large piece of debris float out of human control can be dangerous because we know that sooner or later it will eventually fall over.

Deliveries that annoy NASA

This is not the first time that China has used the Long March 5B missile, but the third. On April 29, 2021, the first module of the Chinese space station was launched into space in this way. The first stage then went into orbit and fell into the Indian Ocean on May 8. A year earlier, shrapnel from this type of rocket had undoubtedly damaged buildings in Côte d’Ivoire without causing any casualties. These uncontrolled returns irritated NASA and its administrator, who, after the second uncontrolled return to Earth, said that China did not meet “the standards of responsibility for its space debris.” Beijing seems to really care about this, believing that the likelihood of trash harming humans remains very low due to our planet’s extensive ocean coverage. The country is also considering a new supply from 2023.

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Fortunately, the entire stage will not fall back to Earth, large parts of it will burn up during re-entry into the atmosphere. However, expect to see 5 to 9 tons of materials crossing the land border. For information about where the collision will occur, the Aerospace Corporation relies on the United States space surveillance network to determine as accurately as possible the landing zone between the 41st parallel north, south of Europe and the 41st parallel south, south. Africa. Thus, a huge territory, including most of America, all of Africa and southern Asia, as well as most of the earth’s oceans. France will not suffer.

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