Could Tiangong-1 Face the Same Fate as NASA's Skylab?

by Catie Keck

Tiangong-1’s re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere has for weeks generated wild speculation about when and where this thing will land (TBD, for the most part). One suggestion, however, is that China’s 19,000-pound space station may suffer a fate similar to that of NASA’s Skylab. pointed to potential similarities between the descents of the two space stations in a Tuesday report on Tiangong-1’s fate. Skylab, America’s first space station, faced ongoing challenges and damage that ultimately led its demise. It fell to Earth on July 11, 1979, disintegrating and “dispersing debris across a sparsely populated section of western Australia and the southeastern Indian Ocean,” according to NASA.

An artist's rendition of Tiangong-2

It is unlikely that China’s uncrewed space station, dubbed the “Heavenly Place,” will have any significant effect on civilians. A statement from the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations in May 2017 said that according to calculations and analysis, “[M]ost of the structural components of Tiangong-1 will be destroyed through burning during the course of its re-entry. The probability of endangering and causing damage to aviation and ground activities is very low.”

Tiangong-1 is expected to face a fiery death as soon as this week, with estimations of its re-entry ranging from as soon as March 30 to as late as April 2, according to As Inverse previously reported, some have suggested that it will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere on April Fools’ Day, in which case we’re potentially looking at some wild reads on Sunday.

The technical director at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Australia, Markus Dolensky, told CNN Tiangong-1’s re-entry could result in a “series of fireballs streaking across the sky.” He added: “It is now nearing its fiery demise as it gradually gets slowed down by the fringes of the Earth’s upper atmosphere.”

Whenever and wherever it does eventually come crashing down to Earth, Tiangong-1’s imminent death sounds like it’s gonna be lit.

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