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Sun 09 May 2021:

Debris from a large Chinese rocket landed in the Indian Ocean on Sunday, according to the China Manned Space Engineering Office, which said most parts had burned up on reentry.

The bulk of the rocket was destroyed as it re-entered the atmosphere, but state media reported that debris landed just west of the Maldives on Sunday.

There have been days of speculation over where the rocket might land, and US officials and other experts warned its return risked potential casualties.

But China insisted the risk was low.


The Chinese agency said early Sunday that the rocket, called the Long March 5B, had re-entered the atmosphere at 10:24 a.m. Beijing time, landing at a location with coordinates of longitude 72.47 degrees east and latitude 2.65 degrees north. That would put the impact location in the Indian Ocean, west of the Maldives archipelago.

“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,” the China Manned Space Engineering Office said in a statement on its website.

Long March 5B Y2 was launched April 29 to carry the core module, Tianhe, of China’s National Space Administration to its orbit.

Tianhe separated from the core stage of the launcher after 492 seconds of flight, directly entering its initial planned orbit.

China acknowledged on May 7 that debris of its indigenously built rocket was “falling back on earth.”

China’s upcoming T-shaped space station said the debris might re-enter Earth’s atmosphere on or around May 9-10.

Its mission was to carry into orbit a module containing living quarters for a future Chinese space station. But after completing that task, the body of the rocket circled Earth in an uncontrolled manner before reentering the lower atmosphere. 

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin bemoaned the negligence involved in the rocket’s fall to Earth and said Washington had no plans to shoot it down.

“I think this speaks to the fact that for those of us who operate in the space domain, that there is a requirement — there should be a requirement to — 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,” he told reporters.

In recent years, China has made no secret of its space ambitions.

The country has poured billions of dollars into its space efforts, and in 2019 it became the first country to send an uncrewed rover to the far side of the Moon.


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