Debris from the Chinese rocket Long March 5B re-entered Earth’s atmosphere over the Indian Ocean on July 30 at around 10:45 am Mountain Daylight Time (10:15 pm IST), according to the US Space Command.
The Long March 5B rocket carried the Wentian module to the Tiangong space station last week.
#USSPACECOM can confirm the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Long March 5B (CZ-5B) re-entered over the Indian Ocean at approx 10:45 am MDT on 7/30. We refer you to the #PRC for further details on the reentry’s technical aspects such as potential debris dispersal+ impact location.
— U.S. Space Command (@US_SpaceCom) July 30, 2022
US and Chinese officials have said that the Chinese rocket debris crashed to Earth over the Indian and Pacific Oceans. According to media reports, the China National Space Administration said most remains of the rocket burnt in the atmosphere. The Chinese space agency has identified the Sulu Sea in the Pacific as the re-entry location.
The Long March 5B reached orbit along with its payload, unlike the core stages of most rockets, which land softly on Earth for future re-use, and stayed as a moving piece of space junk. The Chinese rocket crashed to Earth because of atmospheric drag.
People around the world have recorded the debris of the Chinese rocket re-entering Earth’s atmosphere and posted videos on social media. The debris appears like meteor showers and fireworks in the videos.
One such video shared by a Twitter user has gone viral on the internet. The video, captured from Kuching, the capital of the state of Sarawak in Malaysia, shows bright objects lighting up the night sky. The Twitter user initially described the sighting as a meteor, but later wrote that it is a rocket.
— Nazri sulaiman (@nazriacai) July 30, 2022
Quoting the video, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield wrote on Twitter: “Looks like that Chinese rocket just burned up over Malaysia. Now wait to hear what big pieces splashed/thumped to Earth.”
Looks like that Chinese rocket just burned up over Malaysia. Now wait to hear what big pieces splashed/thumped to Earth. https://t.co/SVh2UXVIyG
— Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) July 30, 2022
Jonathan Christopher McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, wrote on Twitter that the video from Kuching implies it was high in the atmosphere at that time, and that any debris would land hundreds of kilometres further along track, near Sibu, Bintulu or Brunei.
Zoom in on the reentry region. The video from Kuching implies it was high in the atmoisphere at tha time – any debris would land hundreds of km further along track, near Sibu, Bintulu or even Brunei. pic.twitter.com/qH1x67KBek
— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) July 30, 2022
Scottish-American astrophysicist Scott Manley wrote on Twitter that the object spotted over Kuching is “definitely orbital hardware burning up”, but the question is whether the footage is recent and authentic.
That’s definitly orbital hardware burning up, question is whether this footage is recent & authentic. https://t.co/Yd7lhuY3v6
— Scott Manley (@DJSnM) July 30, 2022
Another Twitter user from Kuching shared footage of the debris falling back to Earth, initially mistaking it for a meteor shower.
Yo meteor shower!!!! pic.twitter.com/DwzqM922N5
— (@juuulan_) July 30, 2022
A journalist shared a video in which the Chinese rocket debris appears like a meteor shower leaving behind bright streaks of light.
An out-of-control #Chinese rocket has crash-landed in the Indian Ocean as #debris “lit up the night sky over #Malaysia“.#US Space Commanded confirmed the rocket re-entered over the Indian Ocean.#China pic.twitter.com/MmuKb064nF
— Chaudhary Parvez (@ChaudharyParvez) July 30, 2022
On July 30, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson released a statement regarding the Chinese rocket debris. He stated that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) did not share specific trajectory information as their Long March 5B rocket fell back to Earth.
“All spacefaring nations should follow established best practices, and do their part to share this type of information in advance to allow reliable predictions of potential debris impact risk, especially for heavy-lift vehicles, like the Long March 5B, which carry a significant risk of loss of life and property,” Nelson wrote.
The People’s Republic of China did not share specific trajectory information as their Long March 5B rocket fell back to Earth.
All spacefaring nations should follow established best practices, and do their part to share this type of information in advance to allow…
— Bill Nelson (@SenBillNelson) July 30, 2022
“Doing so is critical to the responsible use of space and to ensure the safety of people here on Earth,” he concluded.
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