By Luis Armando Sanchez Diaz, May 24 2021—
For days, social media users were caught up in a frenzy fueled by rumors and speculation about the potential landing site of an out-of-control core from a Chinese rocket named Long March 5B.
The now destroyed object — 30 metres in length and weighing around 21 tonnes — was part of a new Chinese rocket that departed earth on April 29 as part of a mission to carry into space an item for China’s new Tianhe space station.
Specialists were initially pointing out that the core of the rocket — designated as CZ-5B — could land anywhere in a wide-range area of the globe and that it was difficult to predict exactly where it would ultimately land.
CTV News’ reported projections were “suggest[ing] it could fall as far south as Chile or New Zealand and as far north as New York State or Ontario.”
However, there was optimism that the aforementioned scenario wouldn’t happen and that Canadians wouldn’t be in the danger zone as Canada is above 42 degrees north latitude and the CZ-5B’s orbit was “below 41 degrees north latitude,” according to the CBC.
After days of uncertainty, the massive fragment re-entered the globe “over the Arabian Peninsula at approximately 10:15 p.m. EDT on May 8,” as reported in news released by the U.S Space Command.
Later, the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) confirmed that the debris had indeed landed in the Indian Ocean near the Maldives.
“The vast majority of the device burned up during the reentry, and the landing area of the debris is around a sea area with the center at 2.65 degrees north latitude and 72.47 degrees east longitude,” said the CMSA.
The event prompted senator Bill Nelson, NASA administrator, to express in a statement the concerns about the lack of “responsible standards” set by China and called for every nation and private companies involved in spacefaring to act accordingly.
“It is critical that China and all spacefaring nations and commercial entities act responsibly and transparently in space to ensure the safety, stability, security and long-term sustainability of outer space activities,” read the statement.
After the incident many people on social media, including experts, have expressed their worries about the inattention shown by China on the matter. It is yet to be determined if international space organisations such as NASA or the European Space Agency (ESA) will put more pressure over the Asian superpower to implement stricter regulation in the way they handle space waste.