Last Monday, a huge part of China’s botched rocket crashed on Earth but a few minutes earlier otherwise it would have stroked New York City.
According to reports, the pieces would have come down on New York if the Long March 5B would have re-connected with the atmosphere 15 minutes before. The Chinese Long March CZ-5B was launched on May 5 carrying an experimental body. It malfunctioned after only a week in space and that inevitably led to the catastrophe. Weighing a massive 20 tons, the rocket core stage came down at our planet at around 11 am ET, with a speed of thousands of miles per minute.
According to astronomers, the chunk had a length of 93 feet and weighed a staggering 20 tons – which makes it the largest object in decades to re-enter the atmosphere uncontrollably. Smaller pieces of the craft landed in Cote d’Ivoire but there were no casualties or injuries reported.
An astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics named Jonathan McDowell spoke to the Independent saying, “Even in space there’s a thin bit of atmosphere left.
Objects in low orbit travel at 18,000 mph, so even a tiny bit of air makes a huge headwind.This causes ‘orbital decay’ – the satellite’s orbit gets lower and lower over time, into the denser atmosphere where the headwind is even bigger.
The rocket was intended to launch a cargo capsule and a next-gen spaceship built to send astronauts to the Moon. The re-entry was confirmed by a unit of the United States Air Force that monitors space debris in the orbit of our planet called the 18th Space Control Squadron. According to the agency, it was notable not only for the size of the rocket but also the extent of its fiery descent.
Experts were not successful in determining where the pieces would eventually land, with many of them speculating it could possibly be in Australia, Africa, the US, or into the ocean.
The course of the debris was extremely difficult to predict and in the end the US Air Force’s prediction was give-or-take half an hour, and it went three-quarters of the way around the world, according to McDowell.