China’s space station plummeting towards Earth near NZ – today – New Zealand Herald

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China’s Tiangong-2 spacecraft is currently rapidly descending towards Earth after deliberately dropping out of Earth’s orbit. Its path back to Earth will be a destructive one as it is expected the spacecraft will burn up upon re-entry. The space station, which means ‘Heavenly body’ in Chinese, will be destroyed at some point today, and any debris that survives re-entry will likely be harmlessly scattered throughout the Pacific Ocean between New Zealand and Chile. Its progress and inevitable destruction can be tracked here. It is currently still functional but its planned death by inferno was initiated more than a year ago. Its altitude has been dropping rapidly, falling from 180 miles to 120 miles above the planet in just an hour. Its current angle relative to Earth’s surface has also become far steeper, rising to a near-vertical 81° from a more gentile 35° just an hour previous. Tiangong-2 was never destined to be a permanent fixture in space and was designed to be destroyed in Earth’s atmosphere at some point. Its demise is intentional, unlike the fiery death of its ill-fated predecessor, Tiangong-1, which hurtled towards Earth uncontrollably after the Chinese space agency lost contact with it last year. Tiangong-1 carried carried toxic chemicals on-board when it crashed to Earth on Easter Sunday. Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang attempt to quell fears of the bus-sized space station, weighing 8.5-tons hitting a densely populated area. He said last year: “If there is a need, we will promptly be in touch with the relevant country. “As to what I have heard, at present the chances of large fragments falling to the ground are not very great, the probability is extremely small.” WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT CHINA’S TIANGONG-2 SPACE STATION? Tiangong-2 is the second Chinese experimental space station. It was launched aboard a Long March 2F rocket on 15 September 2016. The module is being used for ‘testing systems and processes for mid-term space stays and refuelling,’ according to the Chinese State. This is being achieved via the crewed Shenzhou-11 and uncrewed Tianzhou-1 cargo missions. Tiangong-2 also houses experiments in medicine and various space-related technologies. The lab is equipped with 14 instruments, including the world’s most accurate time piece, according to reports in Chinese state media. The Cold Atomic Clock in Space developed by researchers in Shanghai can easily be lifted by two people and would fit comfortably in the boot of a car, The South China Post reported at the time of its launch. Polar, a gamma-ray burst detector developed by an international team of experts, stopped working on April 1, 2017 due to a power failure. However, it did manage to gather data during its six months of operations, with the results due to be published in 2018. The vessel has a crew size of two, with 30 days of life support resources. In October 2017, Chinese astronauts spent a 30-day stay on the station – China’s longest stay in space. It is 34 ft (10.4 m) long, 14 ft (4.2 m) in diameter and has a mass of 19,000 lb (8,600 kg). It is conducting experiments ahead of a Chinese space station planned for 2022.