Rocket debris lands in Indian Ocean

Space mission: A file photo of the ‘Long March-5 Y5’ rocket, carrying the Chang’e-5 lunar probe, before taking off from Wenchang Space Launch Centre in Wenchang, Hainan province, China last November. — Reuters

BEIJING: Remnants of China’s biggest rocket have landed in the Indian Ocean, with most of its components destroyed upon re-entry into the atmosphere, ending days of speculation over where the debris would hit.

The coordinates given by Chinese state media, citing the China Manned Space Engineering Office, put the point of impact in the ocean yesterday, west of the Maldives archipelago.

The vast majority of the device burned up during the re-entry, and the rest of the debris fell into a sea area with the centre at 2.65° north latitude and 72.47° east longitude, said the CMSA.

The Long March-5B Y2 rocket, carrying the Tianhe module, the first and core module for the construction of China’s space station, blasted off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on the coast of the southern island province of Hainan on April 29.

The US Space command confirmed the re-entry of the rocket over the Arabian Peninsula, but said it was unknown if the debris impacted land or water.

The Long March was the second deployment of the 5B variant since its maiden flight in May 2020.

Harvard-based astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell said the potential debris zone could have been as far north as New York, Madrid or Beijing, and as far south as southern Chile and Wellington, New Zealand.

“It is common practice across the world for upper stages of rockets to burn up while re-entering the atmosphere, ” Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson at China’s foreign ministry, said at a regular media briefing on Friday.

“To my knowledge, the upper stage of this rocket has been deactivated, which means most of its parts will burn up upon re-entry, making the likelihood of damage to aviation or ground facilities and activities extremely low.”

The rocket, which put into orbit an unmanned Tianhe module containing what will become living quarters for three crew on a permanent Chinese space station, will be followed by 10 more missions to complete the station by 2022. — Agencies

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