We are not kidding one bit. According to various media reports, debris from a China space station might hit our beloved city centre in Kuala Lumpur when it enters the Earth’s atmosphere, and we’re probably going to be on flames early next year. Mark your calendars and bring your own BBQ pits, people.
As reported by nst.com.my, the space station Tiangong-1, which translates to ‘heavenly palace’… well, it’s not so heavenly as the space station’s orbit is decaying and the 8.5-tonne spacecraft is expected to re-enter the atmosphere, between January and March. Besides KL, other potential crash zones are Singapore, Bangkok, Beijing, New York, Manila and Tokyo.
The unmanned module lifted off in September 2011 and successfully completed its mission in March 2016. After completing all the data transfer, it was expected to re-enter the atmosphere but the problem is that the space station is suffering from a host of mechanical and technical problems. As a result, ground control has no real control over how it will be de-orbited.
Well the good news is that – according to Wu Ping, deputy director of China’s manned space agency – the bulk of the space station would burn up during re-entry. But the bad news is some components that were built to withstand extremes in temperature might survive the plunge. Sigh.
The worst part is, reports quoting Harvard astrophysicists Jonathan McDowell said, “We will only be aware of the landing time six or seven hours before it actually happens. This also means that we cannot pinpoint the exact impact zones.” He continued by stating some components that survived the descent could weigh as much as 100kg and that alone is still enough to give you a nasty wallop if it hits you. Damage caused by components at that mass and velocity could be considerably devastating on a dense population.
Chinese officials have been working with other international space agencies and will release a forecast of the projected impact points. But other than that, there’s nothing we can do about it.
We Malaysians can only hope for the best – that the debris will land in the ocean or an uninhabited area.