Debris from a 25-ton Chinese Long March 5B rocket crashed to earth on Saturday afternoon over the Indian Ocean. This is not the first time the Chinese have failed to control the reentry of space debris, and it likely won’t be the last. One thing is certain: If this “space junk” had fallen over a populated area, it would have had deadly consequences.
U.S. Space Command confirmed this development on Twitter and referred readers to the People’s Republic of China for further information about “potential debris dispersal and impact location,” details with which the government appears to have little concern.
#USSPACECOM can confirm the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Long March 5B (CZ-5B) re-entered over the Indian Ocean at approx 10:45 am MDT on 7/30. We refer you to the #PRC for further details on the reentry’s technical aspects such as potential debris dispersal+ impact location.
— U.S. Space Command (@US_SpaceCom) July 30, 2022
Mike Wall of Space.com reported the rocket was launched on July 24. Its mission was to transport a new module to China’s Tiangong space station, which is currently under construction. Wall explained that “unlike the core stages of most rockets, which are steered to a safe disposal shortly after launch or land softly for future reuse, the Long March 5B reached orbit along with its payload. And it stayed up — as a big, fast-moving piece of space junk — until atmospheric drag brought it down in an unpredictable and uncontrolled fashion.”