U.S. has no plan to shoot down Chinese rocket

Re-entry zone

"At the imaging time, the rocket stage was at about 700 km (435 miles) from our telescope, while the Sun was just a few degrees below the horizon, so the sky was incredibly bright: these conditions made the imaging quite extreme, but our robotic telescope succeeded in capturing this huge debris", Gianluca Masi, an astronomer with the Virtual Telescope Project, explained in a post.

Mr McDowell did add that there was a chance that pieces could fall over land, like in May 2020, when pieces from another Chinese rocket came down over the Ivory Coast, damaging several buildings but leaving no one injured.

In an unrelated space mission, NASA is scheduled to launch a rocket Saturday night from the the agency's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, and it may be visible from many eastern states, including New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. The problem is, that as of Thursday, no one seems to know.

The debris will be dragged toward Earth by increasing collisions with molecules in the Earth's atmosphere, Space News said.

The Long March 5B rocket was launched last week carrying a module of China's first permanent space station into orbit.

The current and predicted trajectory for the orbiting Long March 5B rocket - referred to as 2021-035B by the US Military - can be followed on several websites, including orbit.ing-now.com and Aerospace.

The rocket launch is part of China's increasingly ambitious space programme, with Beijing planning at least 10 similar launches to carry equipment into orbit.

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China is a late entrant in space exploration, only sending its first astronaut into space in 2003. The rocket is more likely than not to land in an ocean.

"The probability of causing harm to aviation activities or (on people and activities) on the ground is extremely low", foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.

The nonprofit Aerospace Corporation expects the debris to hit the Pacific near the equator after passing over eastern US cities.

How big is the Chinese rocket that's falling to Earth?

However, the newspaper Global Times, published by the Chinese Communist Party, said the stage's "thin-skinned" aluminum-alloy exterior will easily burn up in the atmosphere, posing an extremely remote risk to people. The parts that don't burn up completely will remain and fall to Earth.

The rocket that fell last May was the heaviest debris to fall uncontrolled since the former Soviet space station Salyut 7 in 1991. The space laboratory Tiangong-1 disintegrated upon re-entry into the atmosphere in 2018, two years after it had stopped working, though Chinese authorities denied they had lost control of the ship. What you should know.

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