New Zealand in path of China's out-of-control space station

European Space Agency

European Space Agency

Tiangong-1, which translates as Heavenly Palace 1, was launched in 2011 to serve as a manned laboratory but mission control lost contact with it a year ago. Speaking to Newsweek, he advised that the Tiangong-1 re-entering Earth's atmosphere is "not something we should be concerned about".

But most is not necessarily all. The statement from Aerospace said there was "a chance that a small amount of debris" from the module will survive re-entry and hit Earth.

"If this should happen, any surviving debris would fall within a region that is a few hundred kilometres in size", Aerospace added in a Tuesday statement. That's a pretty imprecise estimate, but the ESA says it's more likely that the object will land somewhere in the northern latitudes, meaning the northern United States, parts of Spain, Portugal, Greece, China, much of the Middle East, and a handful of other countries.

They weren't able to accurately date its descent, either. Now, the Aerospace Corporation has informed that the out of control space station will re-enter the earth's atmosphere between 24th March and 29th April.

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Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist from Harvard University, seems a bit less anxious about the satellite than some, but he still has a note of caution, as he told The Guardian. "But we will only know where they are going to land after the fact".

"There will be lumps of about 100 kg [221 pounds] or so, still enough to give you a nasty wallop if it hit you", he said.

Some of the material on board the space station is indeed toxic, including chemicals used in rocket fuel, and China has noted that if that material finds its way to the ground it could be hazardous to anyone who stumbles upon it. Acute exposure can cause liver, kidney and CNS (central nervous system) damage. "The liquid is corrosive and may produce dermatitis from skin contact in humans and animals". Well, no. The possibility of these space debris hitting anyone living in these nations is minuscule.

"No one has ever been hurt by a piece of debris landing from space".

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"Only one person has ever been recorded as being hit by a piece of space debris and, fortunately, she was not injured".

The Tiangong-1 or Heavenly Palace lab was launched in 2011 and described as a "potent political symbol" of China, according to the report in the Guardian. The industry leaders, the USA and Russian Federation, have a multi-decade head start, but China has attempted to compensate by quickly developing their own large-scale program.

Experts are warning that an eight-ton Chinese space laboratory that has a deteriorating orbit path will likely crash into Europe in early April-but there's a bit of disagreement on exactly when and, indeed, where.

Satellite debris has rained down on Earth a few times before.

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Is there a threat to life from Tiangong-1's crash-landing?

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