A 23-ton Chinese rocket crashed into Earth from space.
In a shocking development, 23 tons of debris from a Chinese rocket has been revealed to have fallen uncontrollably back to Earth in the Pacific Ocean. This is according to a tweet from the United States Space Command. Because it fell uncontrollably, the missile could have landed anywhere, even in crowded cities.
“#USSPACECOM can confirm that the 5B #CZ5B rocket from the People’s Republic of China re-entered the atmosphere over the South Pacific Ocean on Nov. 4 at 04:01 MDT/10:01 UTC. #PRC,” US Space Command tweeted.
Shortly after the confirmation, the US Department of Defense’s 11th Combatant Command posted another tweet confirming that there was a second atmospheric reentry correlated with China’s Long March 5B missile as it “entered the #USSPACECOM area of responsibility over the Northeast Pacific at 04:06 MDT/10:06 UTC on November 4.”
According to The New York Times, this is China’s latest round of celestial roulette involving a deliberately uncontrolled reentry.
The rocket stage, by design, did not include a system to direct it to a specific place on Earth, far away from humans. This is the fourth time a Chinese rocket has hit Earth. Earlier, in 2020, 2021 and in 2022, the Chinese rocket vibrated back into Earth three times.
Earlier this year, China launched on Monday a Long March 5B rocket, one of the most powerful rockets in operation today, to carry a third and final module of its Tiangong space station, the centerpiece of a space program that’s second after NASA’s in technological sophistication, The New York Times reported.
Each time, China has successfully bet that the missile’s components would not injure people on the ground. But while there were no immediate reports of damage, Friday’s return caused disruption, including a closure of Spanish airspace that delayed hundreds of flights in the morning. A rocket of the same design is expected to be used at least one more time, in 2023.
Other space agencies and experts have criticized the four rocket launches. NASA administrator Bill Nelson released a statement criticizing the Chinese for not taking more precautions, as he had for similar launches in April 2021 and July this year.
“It is critical that all space-faring nations are accountable and transparent in their space activities,” the New York Times quoted, Nelson said, “and follow established best practices, especially for the uncontrolled return of a large rocket body debris – debris that could be very well lead to major damage or loss of life.”
China launched the 23-ton March-5B Y3 launch vehicle, which Wentian carried from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on the coast of the southern island province of Hainan at 2:22 p.m. (Beijing Time) on July 24, according to the China Manned Space Agency ( CMSA).
Within days of the launch, the US Space Command said debris from a large Chinese rocket had re-entered Earth’s atmosphere over the Indian Ocean at 12:45 a.m. GMT.
“USSPACECOM can confirm that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Long March 5B (CZ-5B) re-entered over the Indian Ocean at approximately 10:45 am MDT on 7/30/30. Please refer to the PRC for more information on the the technical aspects of return, such as the possible impact location of debris dispersion,” the tweet read.
The rocket has since been on an uncontrolled descent toward Earth’s atmosphere — marking the third time China has been accused of not properly processing space debris from its rocket stage, CNN reported.
Since then, space telescopes have tracked the rocket’s path in Earth’s orbit because of the slim possibility that it could land over a populated area.