Health Editor’s Note: Before the conspiracy theorists get going on this one, it could just as well have been a U.S. piece of space junk that fell out of the sky….Carol
A Huge Hunk of Space Debris Fell to Earth
by Nora McGreevy/Smithsonianmag.com
A nearly 20-ton chunk of a Chinese rocket fell uncontrolled down to Earth and landed in the Atlantic Ocean on Monday, reports Allen Kim for CNN. The object hurtling through the atmosphere was part of China’s newest and largest rocket, the Long March 5B, which the country launched May 5.
The rocket had lost its core stage, which is essentially the spacecraft’s “backbone” that supports its weight. For “a few tense hours,” not even experts tracking the object knew exactly where it would land, CNN reports. The object passed over much of the United States, including New York City and Los Angeles, and crashed into the water just off the coast of West Africa, reports Eric Berger for Ars Technica. On Twitter, the United States Air Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron confirmed that the core stage reentered Earth’s atmosphere at 8:33 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time.
While the notion of things falling from the sky might give Chicken Little pause, falling space debris does not usually present a threat to humans. As Stephen Clark reports for Spaceflight Now, much of the rocket’s structure was expected to burn up during reentry.