Spectators watch the Long March-5B Y3 rocket carrying the Chinese space station Wentian laboratory module as it lifts off from the Wenchang spacecraft launch site on July 24, 2022 in China. China on Sunday launched one of two laboratory modules to complete its permanent space station.
Luo Yunfei | China News Service | Getty Images
A Chinese missile fell back to Earth on Saturday over the Indian Ocean, but NASA said Beijing did not share the “specific trajectory information” needed to know where the debris might have fallen.
The US Space Command said the Long March 5B rocket re-entered over the Indian Ocean around 12:45 p.m. EDT (1645 GMT), but referred questions about “technical aspects of re-entry such as the impact site of potential debris dispersal”. to China.
“All space-faring nations should follow established best practices and do their part to share this type of information in advance to allow reliable predictions of potential debris impact risks,” said Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator. “Doing so is critical to the responsible use of space and to ensuring the safety of people here on Earth.”
Malaysian social media users posted a video of what appeared to be missile debris.
Aerospace Corp., a government-funded nonprofit think tank near Los Angeles, said it was reckless allowing the rocket’s main core stage — which weighs 22.5 tons (about 48,500 pounds) — to return to Earth in an uncontrolled re-entry.
Earlier this week, analysts said the rocket’s body will disintegrate as it descends into the atmosphere, but is large enough that many pieces will likely survive the fiery ingress of rain debris over an area about 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) long by about 70 kilometres. (44 miles).
The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately comment. China said earlier this week it would track the wreckage closely, but said it posed little danger to anyone on the ground.
Long March 5B blasted off on July 24 to deliver a lab unit to China’s new under-construction space station in orbit, marking the third flight of China’s most powerful rocket since it was first launched in 2020.
Another Chinese fragment of Long March 5B landed in Ivory Coast in 2020, damaging several buildings in that West African country, although no injuries were reported.
By contrast, he said, the United States and most other space-faring nations generally go to the extra expense to design their rockets to avoid large, uncontrolled re-entries — an inevitable largely observed since large parts of the NASA Skylab space station fell off the ground. 1979 and landed in Australia.
Last year, NASA and others accused China of being opaque after the Beijing government remained silent about the estimated debris path or re-entry window for the last Long March rocket flight in May 2021.
The wreckage from that flight ended up landing unharmed in the Indian Ocean.
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