SPRINGFIELD, Mo – As debris from a Chinese rocket plummets toward Earth, aeronautics experts warn it’ll crash to Earth this weekend.
Drury Physics Professor Gregory Ojakangus, who also worked as an orbital space debris scientist and continues to consult with NASA, says the chance of the debris landing somewhere in the Ozarks is highly unlikely, despite the debris’s path passing fairly close.
According to Ojakangus, the “Long March 5B” rocket carried the main module of the future Chinese space station Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony, into orbit on April 29. Ojakangus says the Chinese decided not to fire thrusters to cause the rocket to rapidly de-orbit. The body of the rocket is currently circling Earth, about to enter the lower atmosphere.
“The path of the object brings it slightly north of Springfield,” Ojakangus said Friday, referring to the model below.
“It could conceivably hit Springfield, but I think when you look closer at each of these orbits they’re about an hour and a half apart. It’s not going to hit here. Most likely, it will hit the ocean,” says Ojakangus referring to the model below.
While confident the Ozarks are safe, Ojakangus says it’s impossible to predict where exactly the falling debris will land, considering variables like wind drag and atmospheric expansion/contraction.
The roughly 30-meter (100-foot) -long stage would be among the biggest space debris to fall to Earth.
Right now, scientists suspect the debris to make impact late on the night of Saturday, May 8, 2021.
As of early Friday, the U.S. Air Force Space Track Project estimated the debris will crash in a remote desert outside Mary, Turkmenistan. However, some researchers warn, with roughly a day left until reentry, the projected site could be wildly off-base.