Watch: Debris From Uncontrolled Chinese Rocket Re-Entry Falls Into Sea Near Philippines
Stunning videos of a massive Chinese rocket that tumbled uncontrollably back to Earth were posted on social media late Saturday.
On July 24, China’s Long March 5B rocket delivered the Wentian laboratory module to the new space station. The rocket’s 23-ton main stage had since been in an uncontrolled descent and reentered the Earth’s atmosphere over the Indian Ocean at around 2445 ET, the U.S. Space Command tweeted.
#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
“No other country leaves these 20-ton things in orbit to reenter in an uncontrolled way,” Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told CNN before the rocket burned up in the atmosphere.
China’s handling of the botched re-entry drew criticism from NASA head Bill Nelson.
“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,” Nelson tweeted.
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
This is the third Long March 5B launch (we noted the other two here) where the core rocket has tumbled uncontrollably back to Earth. The first was in May 2020, when a Long March 5B deorbited and crashed into an African village.
Reports of a 12-m-long object crashing into the village of Mahounou in Cote d’Ivoire. It’s directly on the CZ-5B reentry track, 2100 km downrange from the Space-Track reentry location. Possible that part of the stage could have sliced through the atmo that far (photo: Aminata24) pic.twitter.com/yMuyMFLfsv
— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) May 12, 2020
The second was one year later, in May 2021, when the rocket splashed down in the Indian Ocean.
And now, rocket debris plunged into the Sulu Sea near the Philippines, according to Chinese spaceflight program via a notice on Chinese social media platform Weibo.
Here’s video of the rocket’s re-entry.
— Doge (@IntelDoge) July 30, 2022
— ∆V (@DELTA_V) July 30, 2022
🎥: Credit to respective owners pic.twitter.com/EQ8LuLZzOr
— Rahimanm (@rahimanm) July 31, 2022
“What we really want to know is did any pieces actually end up sitting on the ground,” McDowell said. “That may take a little while longer for the reports to filter back.”
One would think the Chinese would perfect an orderly re-entry of the rocket for the third time, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Another Long March is scheduled for launch in a few months. So the world will go through another guessing game about where the rocket will land.
Sun, 07/31/2022 – 09:55