An out-of-control 21-ton Chinese rocket is falling to earth and could land on populated areas, experts warn.
China’s Long March 5b rocket that launched Thursday is predicted to crash back to Earth within the next few days.
Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer who tracks objects orbiting Earth, told SpaceNews that it’s path takes it ‘a little farther north than New York, Madrid, Beijing and as far south as southern Chile and Wellington, New Zealand’.
It could land anywhere in this range, that covers oceans and populated and unpopulated areas, but most of it would burn up in the atmosphere.
Satellite trackers have detected the 100-foot-long rocket travelling at more than four miles per second.
China launched Long March 5B at 11:23 am local time on Thursday to deliver the first stage of its upcoming space station.
The module, named ‘Tianhe’, or ‘Harmony of the Heavens’, will become living quarters for three crew members once the massive structure is complete.
China aims to complete its Chinese Space Station, known as Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) by the end of 2022, state media reported, after several further modules are launched.
When complete, Tiangong Space Station will orbit Earth at an altitude of 211 to 280 miles.
It’s expected to have a mass between 180,000 and 220,000 pounds – roughly one-fifth the mass of the ISS, which is 925,335 pounds.
China aims to become a major space power by 2030 to keep up with rivals, including the US, Russia and the European Space Agency, and create the most advanced space station orbiting Earth.