Debris of the biggest Chinese rocket landed in the Indian Ocean on Sunday and drew a lot of criticism from the United States over lack of transparency. Most components of the rocket destroyed after its reentrance into the Earth’s atmosphere. So, finally, its landing closes the chapter of speculation over where the remains of the rocket would hit the Earth.
So, that’s a wrap. Object 48275, the core stage from the Chang Zheng [Long March] 5B No. Y2 launched on Apr 29, reentered over the Indian Ocean near the Maldives at about 0214 UTC May 9. Nice to note that the time was indeed very close to the middle of the prediction window
— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) May 9, 2021
According to the Chinese state media coordinates, mentioning the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO), the rocket falls in the Indian Ocean, west of the Maldives archipelago. The Long March 5B rocket blasted off from the Hainan Island of China on 29th April, and since then, people were looking suspiciously skyward for the fall of its debris. According to CMSEO, most of the rocket’s debris burnt up in the atmosphere because of its heavy speed and friction.
Moreover, the Chinese state media reported that some parts of the rocket re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere around Beijing time 10:24 am. (0224 GMT). It landed at a location with the coordinates of longitude 72.47 degrees east and latitude about 2.65 degrees north. The United States Space Command also confirmed the Long March 5B’s re-entry over the Arabian Peninsula. However, it was unclear either the debris remains of the rocket impacted land or water.
Spacefaring Nations must Maximize transparency Regarding Space Operations
According to the U.S. Space Command statement published on its website, the exact location of the rocket’s impact and the span of debris is unclear at the moment. Furthermore, the Long March was the 2nd deployment of its 5B variant since its first flight in My 2020. Whereas pieces from the 1st Long Match 5B fell on Ivory Coast (a West African country) last year and damaged many buildings but reported no injuries.
Bill Nelson, the NASA administrator, and former senator & astronaut, stated after the re-entry that spacefaring countries must maximize transparency regarding space operations and lessen the risks to property and people on Earth after re-entries of space objects. The recent event reveals that China is failing to meet responsible international standards about their space debris.
Concern over Possible Debris Zone
According to experts, most of the surface of the Earth covered by water, the chances of hitting the debris at the populous area on land has low, and the possibility of human injuries even lower. However, the ambiguity over the orbital decay of the rocket and the failure of China to issue stronger assurances in the approach to the re-entry drove worry.
Nelson adds that it is critical that all spacefaring countries, especially China and commercial entities, act sensibly and clearly in space to assure security, stability, safety, and long-term sustainability of outer space activities. Jonathan McDowell, the Harvard-based astrophysicist, told Reuters that the possible debris zone of the rocket could spot as far north as New York, Beijing or Madrid, and as far as southern Wellington, New Zealand, and Chile.
Reuters: Harvard-based astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell said potential debris zone could have been as far north as New York, Madrid or Beijing, and as far south as southern Chile and Wellington, NZ.
— Vincent Lee (@Rover829) May 9, 2021
Since large chunks of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) space station Skylab fell from orbit in July 1979 and fell in Australia, many nations sought to avoid such out-of-control re-entries of debris through their spaceship design. McDowell said that it makes the rocket designers of China look lazy that they did not address this issue. Moreover, a Chinese tabloid, the Global Times, terminated as Western hype concerns the rocket’s debris was out of control and possibly will cause damage.
Scientists Deactivated the Upper Stage of the Rocket
A spokesperson at the Chinese foreign ministry, Wang Wenbin, said during a press briefing on 7th May that it is common practice across the globe for upper portions of the rockets to burn up when they re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Further, he adds that, as per his knowledge, the scientists deactivated the upper stage of the rocket, which clearly means that most of its parts will incinerate upon its re-entry, making the possibility of damage to ground or aviation facilities and other activities deficient.