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Chinese space station set to crash to Earth around Easter

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Staff Writer |
Tiangong-1
Science and technology   Tiangong-1

Space experts predict the Tiangong-1 space station, or "Heavenly Palace", will turn into a spectacular fireball as it enters Earth's atmosphere sometime during the Easter long weekend.

According to the latest predictions, it will begin its fiery descent into Earth's atmosphere somewhere in a window between 30 March and 3 April - possibly around 1 April.

But there are concerns the bus-sized spacecraft is out of control. That means some debris from the fireball could hit the Earth anywhere in a band between 43 degrees north and south of the equator.

The Tiangong-1 is the Chinese Manned Space Agency's (CMSA) version of the International Space Station. But China's first space station is a lightweight compared to the 420-tonne ISS.

The 8.5-tonne craft is made of two cylindrical modules: the experiment module which housed crew, and the service module, which contains thruster engines, attached to two solar panels.

China's first space station was launched in 2011 and completed three missions, one uncrewed and two crewed, said Xiaopeng Wu, a space engineer at the University of Sydney.

"The original design was for two years but they extended the lab time to 2016," said Dr Wu.

In 2016, the CMSA advised the United Nations that the spacecraft had completed its mission.


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