The prospects of an out-of-control Chinese space lab falling to earth have preoccupied segments of the Hong Kong and Taiwanese media for several months. Apple Daily has run regular articles speculating on the chances of the object hitting Hong Kong in a meteor-like fashion.
On Monday the Tiangong-1 – which means ‘heavenly palace’ – finally entered the Earth’s atmosphere and began burning up. However, Chinese space authorities have made clear the debris will land safely in the middle of the South Pacific, far from any urban areas. Zhu Jin, director of the Beijing Planetarium, told the South China Morning Post there was no need to worry that the eight-tonne space craft would strike a city. He said that the chances of anyone being hit by a piece of falling debris were lower than those of winning the lottery.
Tiangong-1 was launched in 2011 as a docking station to aid China’s rapidly expanding manned space programme (it was able to support up to three astronauts at a time for a two-week period). It officially went out of service in 2016 and was predicted to plunge back to earth sometime between March and April this year. The lab was designed for experiments, with China planning to launch a permanent space station soon after 2020.