One of the country’s leading astrophysics professors is calling for calm as an out-of-control rocket hurtles towards Earth, with its path tracking over WA.
The China-launched rocket — the size of a 10 storey building and weighing 21 tonnes —is travelling at speeds of 27,000km/h, remnants of which are expected to hit Earth within hours. But exactly where it will land is still up in the air.
Director of the Space Technology and Institute at Swinburne, Alan Duffy said on Twitter that the rocket would be a ‘fireball’ raining back to Earth, with debris disintegrating down to roughly four or five tonnes.
“If we’re out by even one minute on the re-entry prediction, that is a difference of 470kms to its landing point,” he said.
“Almost certainly, this will land in the water, but if it doesn’t and hits the land, it can cause damage.”
Perth Observatory’s Matt Woods was tracking the fireball rocket and was devastated to have missed it passing over Perth.
“I couldn’t see it due to the cloud coverage… it happens every time when something is passing Perth, the clouds cover it,” he told The Sunday Times.
Mr Woods predicts the rocket will make its landfall around midday.
“It won’t survive going through the atmosphere but it will spectacular,” he said.
The Long March 5B rocket helped launch the unmanned Tianhe module, which contains what will become living quarters on a permanent Chinese space station.
While space agencies agree landing its imminent, they all have slightly different predictions of when.
The US Space Command estimated re-entry would occur at 10.11am Perth time on Sunday, plus or minus one hour, while the Centre for Orbital Reentry and Debris Studies updated its prediction to two hours either side of 11.02am with the rocket re-entering over the Pacific.
Europe’s tracking body said its latest prediction for the re-entry of the Long March 5B rocket body was 139 minutes either side of 10.32 on Sunday.
But Professor Duffy is urging people to be calm stating people are more likely to get struck by lightning than being hit by a piece of the debris from the rocket.
He has, however, called out China for not having better preparation for the rocket’s re-entry to Earth.
“We must demand better, this does not need to be an uncontrolled re-entry,” he said.
“I’m very sad that China has done this because it has meant that the world is focused on the re-entry of the rocket, and the danger that presents, rather than the success of the launch of the first stage of their new space station.”
Long March 5B lifted off from China’s Hainan island on April 29 with the unmanned Tianhe module, which contains what will become living quarters on a permanent Chinese space station. The rocket is set to be followed by 10 more missions to complete the station.
– With APP