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A Chinese spacecraft carrying toxic chemicals might crash land in Tasmania

Tiangong-1, a Chinese space laboratory that has been out of control since 2016, is expected to come crashing back to Earth within a few months.

According to space research nonprofit Aerospace Corporation, Tiangong-1’s re-entry will take place in mid-March, give or take two weeks.

Aerospace Corporation predicts that there is a chance that a small amount of Tiangong-1 debris may survive the re-entry and impact the ground.

Places where this is most likely to happen include parts of the U.S, Spain, Italy and Russia, South Africa, Tasmania and New Zealand.

TG-1_Coverage_Plot_Annotated

Tiangong-1 is most likely to crash land in the yellow regions.

Before you begin constructing your underground bunker, keep in mind that statistics are on your side.

Aerospace Corporation says that the probability you will be struck by Tiangong-1 debris is “about one million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot.”

But getting hit by space junk isn’t the only cause for concern when it comes to Tiangong-1.

The 8,500 kilogram spacecraft may also be carrying hydrazine, a colourless liquid used in rocket fuel that is highly toxic.

“For your safety, do not touch any debris you may find on the ground nor inhale vapours it may emit,” Aerospace Corporation warns.

Tiangong-1, which means “Heavenly Palace”, was launched in September 2011 with a design life of two years.

During its flight, it has conducted experiments and aided Chinese scientists to understand more about the construction and management of a space station.

China’s ultimate goal is to build the country’s first space station by around 2020.

In September 2016, China’s space agency announced that it had “terminated data service” with Tiangong-1, which is likely a euphemism for “we lost control of this darn thing and it’s gonna crash into Earth.”

While we have Aerospace Corporation’s prediction areas, it’s impossible to know for sure where Tiangong-1 will land.

“You really can’t steer these things,” said Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell in September 2016, when contact with Tiangong-1 was first ended. “Not knowing when it’s going to come down translates as not knowing where it’s going to come down.”

Tiangong-1 won’t be the largest spacecraft to come back to Earth. That prize goes to Russia’s Mir space station, which weighed 120,000 kilogram an reentered in 2001. Mir was a controlled reentry and was crashed into the Pacific Ocean.

About the author

Stefan is an Adelaide-based freelance writer. In his spare time, he plays tennis badly, collects vinyl and brushes up on his Mandarin. Follow Stefan on Twitter

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