Where did the Chinese rocket land? Latest on out of control falling space debris - and where it crashed
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The debris of an out of control rocket from China crashed into the Indian Ocean in the early ours of Sunday morning, the country’s space agency has said.
The rocket, called Long March 5B, was launched from Wenchang Space Launch Centre on 29 April, and was carrying Tianhe - the first module of China’s future space station.
The body of the rocket was circling the Earth once every 90 minutes. Experts feared that it could have crashed on a populated area, but after days of speculation, there have thankfully been no casualties.
Where did the debris land?
The remains of the rocket – most of which broke up on re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere - landed in the Indian Ocean, just west of the Maldives at at 10:24 Beijing time (02:24 GMT) on Sunday 9 May.
Experts had speculated that the debris trail may have fallen somewhere as far north as New York, Madrid or Beijing and as far south as southern Chile and New Zealand.
However, it landed in the Indian Ocean at a point 72.47° East and 2.65° North.
The 18-tonne rocket was one of the largest items in recent history to have been hurtling into the earth’s atmosphere out of control.
The US said on Thursday (6 May) it was tracking the path of the object from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California but that there were no plans to shoot it down.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said: "There should be a requirement to operate in a safe and thoughtful mode and make sure that we take those kinds of things into consideration as we plan and conduct operations."
Why did the rocket drop out of the sky?
The piece that dropped out of the sky was the core booster stage of the Long March 5B rocket.
It was designed to lift big, heavy pieces of the new Chinese Space Station.
For most rockets, the lower stages usually drop back to Earth immediately after launch. Upper stages that reach orbit usually fire the engine again after releasing their payloads, guiding them toward re-entry in an unoccupied area like the middle of an ocean.
Over the past three decades, only China has lifted rocket stages this big to orbit and left them to fall somewhere at random, Dr Jonathan McDowell told the New York Times.