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Pentagon tracking falling Chinese rocket

The Pentagon is closely tracking an uncontrolled Chinese rocket set to reenter Earth's atmosphere this weekend, the Defense Department’s top spokesman said Wednesday.

U.S. Space Command estimates the near fully intact Chinese Long March 5B will enter Earth's atmosphere somewhere around May 8, John Kirby told reporters.

The rocket’s exact entry point into the atmosphere “cannot be pinpointed until within hours of its reentry,” Defense Department spokesperson Mike Howard said in a Tuesday statement. 

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Kirby could not say what measures the military may have in place should the rocket land on U.S. soil, pointing to that limited time frame.

“It’s too soon to explore options about what if anything can be done about this until we have a better sense of where it’s coming down,” he said. “We just don’t know enough right now to be able to formulate specific notification plans.” 

He added that Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinBiden to host Afghan president at White House on Friday Biden struggles to detail post-withdrawal Afghanistan plans Overnight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine MORE is aware of the situation and is receiving updates.

The Chinese rocket took flight last week to launch part of Beijing’s planned space station. Usually debris left over from launches burn up in the atmosphere, but the rocket’s 22-ton size has officials concerned that pieces of it can fall back to Earth and cause damage or injury. 

The 18th Space Control Squadron at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., was set to offer daily updates to the rocket body’s location beginning on Tuesday.