Story at a glance

  • China launched a Long March 5B rocket into space last month carrying a module to construct its first permanent space station.
  • The rocket is expected to crash back to Earth in the Pacific on Saturday.
  • U.S. Space Command hasn’t been informed by China whether the rocket is making a controlled or out-of-control descent.

A possibly out-of-control Chinese rocket is expected to crash to Earth on Saturday, leading the White House to call for “responsible space behaviors.” 

U.S. Space Command is tracking China’s Long March 5B rocket, which the country launched last week to bring the main module for China’s first permanent space station into space. 

Coming in at approximately 100 feet, the rocket’s debris will be some of the biggest space debris to hit Earth.


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Aerospace Corp, a federally funded nonprofit organization, said the debris is expected to fly over the eastern United States before crashing into the Pacific near the Equator.

China’s space agency hasn’t informed the U.S. whether the rocket is making a controlled or out-of-control descent.

“The United States is committed to addressing the risks of growing congestion due to space debris and growing activity in space and we want to work with the international community to promote leadership and responsible space behaviors,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

The Chinese Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper said the rocket’s “thin-skinned” exterior layers will burn up in the atmosphere and doesn’t pose a risk to citizens. 

However, Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard University, said, “Last time they launched a Long March 5B rocket they ended up with big long rods of metal flying through the sky and damaging several buildings in the Ivory Coast.”

China is planning to carry out 10 more rocket launches to carry more supplies and parts into orbit to construct its space station. 


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Published on May 06, 2021