On May 11, 17.8 tonnes, a massive piece of space debris slammed uncontrollably into the Earth’s atmosphere.
One of the largest human-made objects made a descent in decades. This debris is 30.48 meres. The Long March 5B(CZ – 5B) was launched on 5th May. Before this, back in 1991, a heavier object, Salyut-7 Soviet space station, of 43 tonnes made an entry to the Earth’s atmosphere.
At first, the debris seemed harmless, but then it was reported that metal pieces are falling on the ground as well. Jonathan McDowell says, “When you have a big chunk of metal screaming through the upper atmosphere in a particular direction at a particular time, and you get reports of things falling out of the sky at that location, at that time, it’s not a big leap to connect them.”
In July 2019, Tiangong-2, a Chinese space station, made a controllable descent to the Earth by making use of last of its fuel. But its weight was half the weight of 5B. China also has a record of Tiangon-1 falling into the Pacific Ocean, uncontrollably in 2018, but this weighed 9.3 ton and it was harmless. So, China doesn’t hold a good record. Jonathan McDowells is worried about the future as he says, “They’re planning a lot of launches of this thing to assemble their new space station, and so that’s going to be a lot of these objects reentering a few days after launch. And that’s not good.”
The 18th Space Control Squadron, an Air Force space-tracking group, reported the re-entry of Long March 5B at 11:33 am EST. According to McDowell, the rocket passed over Hollywood, Colorado Springs & New York City’s Central Park in its last half-hour in orbit.
In 1972, the United Nations came up with the treaty, Space Liability Convention, stating an agreement about who to be held liable for any falling space object causing injuries to someone. China acceded the treaty in 1988, which has made it unclear whether China has to pay in some way or not.