In what could be a rerun of panic that the crash of Skylab had spread in the late 1970s, China's prototype space station Tiangong-1 is reportedly hurtling towards earth and could enter the atmosphere this week. It has officially stopped sending data and entered the final phase of life on March 16.
While the majority of the eight-tonne spacecraft is likely to burn up while dashing through the atmosphere, some parts of it are expected to hit the ground and this has raised concern just like Skylab had done almost four decades ago.
Tiangong-1 is unlikely to injure anybody
Experts say the chances are very unlikely that one or two individuals could be hit by debris from the space. A woman named Lottie Williams was hit on her shoulder in 1997 by parts of what was believed to a Delta II rocket while walking through a park though she was not injured and the incident can be considered as the rarest of the rare. The 77-tonne US space station Skylab also didn't injure anybody and only parts of it were later gathered. Tianging-1 is the 50th largest craft and it is highly unlikely that it could harm anybody standing on earth either.
In 2011, Nasa said after calculation that the chance of a 6.5 tonne object hitting someone was one in 3,200 and it would be the most unlikely fatality in anyone's death. However, given China's confidential way of doing things, it has not released every detail about the Tiangong-1's design and hence the experts were not sure how much percentage of the station would survive the re-entry in the atmosphere.
Difficult to predict where Tiangong-1 will crash
For those are seeking to know the location where Tiangong-1 would crash, it is very difficult to predict it for it is moving at a speed of 27,000 kilometres per hour. It is likely to hit any point in the vast swathes of the Americas, Africa, Australia and some regions of Asia and Europe.
The crash date could be around April 1 but the exact date could be a day before or later as well.
In case Tiangong-1 causes any extensive damage through its fall, it is China - the launching state - which would be responsible for compensating for the damage. The 1972 Convention on International Liability for Damage caused by Space Objects or Space Liability Convention has laid down the rule.
Till date, only former Soviet Union was made to pay under this convention rule. In 1978, its Cosmos 954 nuclear-powered satellite had poured nuclear waste over Canada and the latter had sought a compensation of 6 million Canadian dollars.
Tiangong-1 a strong political statement by China
Tiangong-1 or "heavenly place" is China's first space station and it was in fact a key symbol of China's rise through the ranks in world politics. It was launched seven years ago to assert China's ambition to become a space superpower and throw challenge to the West and Russia. Two Chinese woman astronauts also paid visit to the space station, which was launched as unmanned, in 2012 and 2013.