China's Long March 5B launch vehicle will fall to Earth this week, ScienceAlert reports. On October 31, the rocket launched from the cosmodrome to deliver the third, and final, module to the Tiangong space station. It is expected that on Friday or Saturday the main stage weighing about 25 tons will enter the Earth's atmosphere, after which it will fall.
The exact location where space debris will land is unknown. According to the forecasts of experts from the American research center Aerospace Corporation, this could be the United States, the countries of Central and South America, Africa, India, China, Southeast Asia and Australia. This is the fourth time in two years that China has disposed of its missiles in this manner. During previous crash landings, debris fell on villages in the Ivory Coast, in the waters of the Indian Ocean near the Maldives, and also near population centers in Borneo.
The first stage of a rocket is usually the most cumbersome, and there is little chance of it completely burning up on re-entry. There are ways around this problem. Some launch vehicles are designed to be capable of controlled re-entry. However, this does not apply to the Long March 5B. China insists that uncontrolled descents are common practice and all talk is nothing more than hype. This is partly true: in March 2021, debris from a SpaceX rocket crashed into a farm in Washington State, and a year later, into a farm in Australia, which was covered in a positive way by the press.
The chance of someone getting hurt in a fall is between 1 in 1,000 and 1 in 230, and the risk for individuals is even lower, between 1 in 10 trillion and 1 in 6 trillion. However, since the trajectory of the Chinese missile debris covers approximately 88% of the world's population, the possibility of harm cannot be ruled out. “Space powers must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth associated with the return of space objects and ensure maximum transparency regarding these operations,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson wrote after the Long March 5B crash landing in 2021. “It is clear that China does not meet responsible standards for its space debris.”