The Chinese space station, Tiangong-1, re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere on April 1, breaking up over a stretch of the South Pacific roughly 100 kilometers (62 miles) northwest of Tahiti, according to the China National Space Administration. This was confirmed by the United States Air Force 18th Space Control Squadron, an organization tasked with tracking artificial objects in orbit. Due to CNSA’s inability to control the timing of Tiangong-1’s reentry, there were concerns over damage or injuries that might be caused by debris that might have survived reentry; however, none have been reported.
While most of Tiangong-1, meaning "Heavenly Palace 1" in Chinese, burned up in the atmosphere, a portion of it is mass will have survived its fiery plunge. "Small bits definitely will have made it to the surface," explains Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist at Australian National University. Tucker estimates that roughly 90 percent of the station will have burned up in the atmosphere, but the remaining 10 percent that would have impacted the ocean would amount to about 700 to 800 kilograms (1,550 to 1,760 lbs). "Most likely the debris is in the ocean, and even if people stumbled over it, it would just look like rubbish in the ocean and be spread over a huge area of thousands of square kilometers," Tucker concludes.
Launched in 2011, Tiangong-1 was designed as a test platform for docking and orbital experiments for China’s ambitious fledgling space program, with the goal of establishing a permanent space station by 2023. Although the station was due to be decommissioned in 2013, its mission was extended, hosting a number of manned expeditions until 2016, when telemetry of Tiangong-1 was lost.
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