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China’s Space Station To Come Down Soon

Beijing, China —(Map)

A Chinese space station may come back down to earth soon, possibly on Sunday. Scientists are not sure where it might hit. The station might also burn up before it hits the ground.

In 2011, China sent its first space station, Tiangong-1, into space. China was using Tiangong-1 to test ideas about space stations. They wanted to learn how to make them better and bigger. At first, China only planned to use the station for two years, but they were able to keep using it for about five years.

China's first space station, Tiangong-1, will fall to earth sometime in the next few days.
China’s first space station, Tiangong-1, will fall to earth sometime in the next few days.
(Source: Tiangong_1_drawing.png: Craigboy, via Wikimedia Commons.)

There are two parts to Tiangong-1. One part has a place for two people to sleep. The other part gives power to the space station and has life support systems. China sent astronauts to work in the space station three times. Some of the astronauts were China’s first female astronauts.

Model of the Chinese space station Tiangong-1.
Model of the Chinese space station Tiangong-1.
(Source: Leebrandoncremer, via Wikimedia Commons.)

China was planning on bringing Tiangong-1 down into the ocean so there was no danger to people. But China lost contact with the station in 2016, so they can’t control it. The space station has been falling closer to earth. On Monday Tiangong-1 was about 130 miles away from earth. It was dropping more than a mile a day and falling faster and faster.

Scientists say it is not likely that anyone will be hurt by pieces of the station. Most of the ship will burn up before it hits earth. China has said that all of the ship will burn up. Larger ships have fallen without anyone being hurt. In 1979, for example, pieces of Skylab, the first space station from the US, fell in Australia without causing problems. Skylab was almost ten times heavier than Tiangong-1.


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