Pentagon does not plan to destroy China's out-of-control rocket: Hopefully it will fall to a place where it won't hurt anyone.

 Steph Deschamps / May 7, 2021

The head of the Pentagon, Lloyd Austin, assured on Thursday that he does not plan to destroy the Chinese rocket which is due to make an uncontrolled re-entry into the atmosphere this weekend, while half-heartedly criticizing Beijing for having lost control of it.

 

According to the latest estimates I've seen, it's scheduled for May 8 or 9, the U.S. defense secretary said during a press conference.

 

At this point, we have no plans to destroy the rocket, he added. We're hoping it will fall somewhere where it won't hurt anyone, in the ocean or someplace like that, we hope.

 

China launched last week the first of the three elements of its space station, the CSS, which was propelled by a Long March 5B rocket. It is the body of this rocket that must land in the next few days, and nobody knows where.

After the separation of the space module, the launcher began to turn in orbit around the planet according to an irregular trajectory, slowly losing altitude, which makes any prediction on its point of entry in the atmosphere, and thus its point of fall, almost impossible.

 

It is possible that it disintegrates on entering the atmosphere, leaving only limited debris to crash. And if it remains whole, the planet being composed to 70% of water, there are strong chances that the rocket crashes in sea, but without certainty. It could thus crash on an inhabited zone or on a ship.

 

This is not the first time China has lost control of a spacecraft during re-entry. In April 2018, a Tiangong-1 space lab had disintegrated on re-entry, two years after it had stopped working. Chinese authorities had denied that the laboratory had escaped their control.

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