China rocket: Expert discusses rocket booster 'heading for Earth'

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China launched the Long March 5B rocket on April 29 as it looked to situate a satellite in Earth’s orbit. However, what goes up must come down (unless it is launched properly) and the 30-metre rocket is now due to fall back down to Earth. The majority of the rocket will likely burn up in the atmosphere, but there is a chance small pieces of debris could reach the surface of the planet.

What time is the rocket expected to re-enter?

Tracking a piece of debris which is circling the planet at seven kilometres per SECOND is extremely hard.

However, all eyes are on the skies as experts look to determine when the rocket will re-enter the atmosphere.

According to the European Space Agency (ESA), the rocket will likely re-enter the atmosphere on May 9 at precisely 08:31:19:47 BST.

However, Europe’s space arm has said it could be within any time 16 hours either side of its estimation.

The US Space Agency has other ideas, however.

It believes the rocket will likely enter “decay epoch” on May 8 at 23:11 BST.

The Virtual Telescope Project, based in Italy, gives a third time.

It states that the rocket will enter Earth’s atmosphere once more at 03:34 on May 9.

However, the caveat from the Virtual Telescope Project is that it could happen 21 hours either side of its estimated re-entry.

All times are subject to change, with astronomers learning more as its re-entry approaches.

China has downplayed the risk, stating that the chance of damage is “extremely low”.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said: “The probability of causing harm to aviation activities or (on people and activities) on the ground is extremely low.”

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Earth’s surface is covered by 71 percent ocean, so theoretically there is a seven in 10 chance that whatever pieces of debris do make it through the atmosphere, then they will land in an area where humans will not be in danger.

However, as it stands it is unclear where the rocket will land.

Harvard astronomer Jonathan McDowell said the rocket was an accident waiting to happen, due to poor design on China’s part.

He said on Twitter: “This was not an accident, it was poor design of the rocket.

“The fact that the massive core stage stays in orbit is how this rocket is designed, and that’s the easy (but negligent) way to do it.”

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