suspected debris lands in Malaysia and Indonesia

suspected debris lands in Malaysia and Indonesia

suspected debris lands in Malaysia and Indonesia

The debris suspected of coming from a Chinese booster rocket that made an uncontrolled return to Earth on Saturday would have been found a few meters from the villages of Malaysia and Indonesia.

A charred metal ring about five meters in diameter was found on Sunday in Kalimantan, Indonesia, according to a Malaysian news report. Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said the metal appeared to be the exact size of the Chinese rocket’s central stage.

“It looks like the end cap of a rocket stage propellant tank,” he said. “I have no doubt it came from the rocket … it’s in the right place at the right time and it looks like it’s coming from the right kind of rocket.”

The unmanned Long March 5B rocket was carrying the second of three modules to complete the Tiangong space station. Earlier in the week, China said it would be following the debris closely and posed little risk.

But Aerospace Corp, a government-funded non-profit research center near Los Angeles, said allowing the rocket’s entire central stage to return to Earth unchecked was reckless.

NASA administrator on Saturday, Bill Nelson, also scolded China for not sharing information about the rocket’s descent, labeling it irresponsible and risky. “All nations traveling into space should follow established best practices and do their part to share this type of information in advance to enable reliable predictions of the potential debris impact risk, particularly for heavy vehicles such as the Long March 5B. , which entail a significant risk of loss of life and property ”.

The warning came two years after fragments of a long-distance Chinese 5B damaged several buildings in Cote d’Ivoire. No injuries were reported.

On Sunday, local media reported that two families were evacuated from their homes in Sarawak, Malaysia, due to radioactivity problems after a piece of debris suspected of originating from the Tiangong rocket was found nearby.

The report showed a piece of metal wedged half a meter into the ground. The Malaysian Space Agency and the Atomic Energy Licensing Council were investigating the incident along with local police.

Related: As more space junk falls to Earth, will China clean up its act?

McDowell said it was difficult to tell from the quality of the photo whether the image was of rocket debris, but he was confident that several parts had landed near the Indonesian and Malaysian border, as there had been numerous media reports. locals of people who had found suspicious metal objects.

The discovery was made a day after people in Sarawak posted images of debris lighting up the night sky as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere. “At first we thought he was a shooting star,” said Aizul Sidek, who captured smartphone footage of him in Kuching, Sarawak.

Another resident told local media that he was taken aback at around 12:40 am by a thunderous noise and tremor that shook his home.

McDowell said most space-traveling nations have designed rockets to prevent uncontrolled reentry. There was no international law requiring it, he said, but avoiding risk became imperative after pieces of NASA’s Skylab space station fell from orbit in 1979 and landed in the Australian outback.

He said that of the six largest uncontrolled space-age re-entries, three were recent Chinese rockets.

“It really shows you that they stand out for being different from what other countries do nowadays … we realized in the 70’s that leaving 20-30 tons of things [re-enter uncontrolled] it was a bad idea.

“In the 60 years of the space age there has been rocket damage but no real casualties. We want this to be the case, “McDowell said.” China is becoming a major space power and so we need to find a way to bring them into the family of space nations and hopefully encourage them to adopt these standards. “

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