Chinese Space Station Re-enters Atmosphere Over Pacific Ocean

Tiangong was the China's first space station and was launched back in 2011. It has docked with Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 spacecraft, and undertaken a series of tasks, making important contributions to China's manned space programme. Six astronauts, four men and two women, spent time in the lab.

The Tiangong-1 was shot into orbit in September 2011.

Female astronaut Wang Yaping delivered a lecture from space lab to students back on Earth. After that, the altitude of Tiangong-1 dropped sharply by 175 miles.

China said that the Tiangong-1 was mostly destroyed upon reentry, though didn't mention was may have survived, as some engineers theorized it would. The space station was slated to be decommissioned in 2013, but its mission was extended.

The re-entry of Tiangong-1 was successful, but it would have been better if that had not been hurtling toward Earth.

But Russian authorities, strapped for cash after the collapse of the Soviet Union, chose to abandon the orbiting outpost in the late 1990s and devote their resources to the International Space Station.

Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, said that variations in the atmosphere made it tricky to predict where and when it would re-enter and burn up. "It's a kind of romance created by science and technology", Bai recalled.

Under President Xi Jinping, plans for China's "space dream", as he calls it, have been put into overdrive.

"It was very bright and moving very fast".

This is an artist's impression of the Tiangong 1 space station bursting into a series of fireballs at it re-enters the earth's atmosphere
This is an artist's impression of the Tiangong 1 space station bursting into a series of fireballs at it re-enters the earth's atmosphere

The Aerospace Corp. anticipated that Tiangong 1's re-entry would happen within 2 and a half hours on either side of 0010 GMT Monday. Tiangong-1 successfully achieved six rendezvous and dockings with a number of spacecraft.

"On clear nights, we could see it with the naked eyes".

When the Mir space station was launched in 1986, Soviet space authorities boosted Salyut 7 to a higher orbit and abandoned it there. "I hope China's space station will be a great success", Zhu said.

Do you believe that China has what it takes to compete in the space exploration race?

Since then China has sent men and women into space with increasing regularity. Space enthusiasts have been bracing for its fiery return since.

However, there were two problems that concerned Chinese scientists.

"Tiangong-1 is China's first space station", explained Phil Larson, Assistant Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science at CU Boulder.

The lab was also used for medical experiments and, most importantly, tests meant to prepare for the building of a space station.

  • Carolyn Briggs