China's Tiangong-1 space station into Earth atmosphere

China has never been clear on exactly why the space station stopped functioning.

It is now set to reenter the atmosphere - while much of the lab is set to burn up on reentry, debris is likely to reach the surface. Head over to Satview.org, which tracks the positioning of Tiangong 1 in real time.

The 34.1 ft Tiangong-1, or "Heavenly Palace 1", China's first space lab, was launched into orbit in 2011 to carry out docking and orbit experiments as part of China's ambitious space programme, which aims to place a permanent station in orbit by 2023.

Believe it or not, the space station was created to come down this way when it was launched in 2011.

While the reentry is likely to create a memorable light show for any astronomers lucky enough to spot it, it is now challenging to predict when exactly the space station will fall. Its researchers have identified a band of "probable" re-entry points around the planet that include well-populated areas in California, Oregon, the Midwest, New York and New England. For perspective, there has only been one instance of a person ever being hit by space junk back in 1997.

Tiangong-1's re-entry is of interest because it is an uncontrolled re-entry after Chinese scientists lost contact with the craft.

It all depends on when the space station re-enters Earth's atmosphere, and this can not be accurately predicted yet.

MI is in the re-entry zone and is preparing for the unlikely event that debris from the space station lands somewhere in the state.

Aerospace has predicted that the spacecraft will burn up as it re-enters the atmosphere "around April 1st, 2018 07:15 UTC plus or minus 20 hours". The initial reentry estimate was 2017, but now we are finally close to the end of Tiangong-1.

During its extended flight, Tiangong-1 conducted experiments in space technology, space-earth remote sensing, and space environment exploration.

An opportunity sky gazing experts, like Richardson, say you do not want to miss.

Though it has attempted to reassure the world about the spacecraft, the country still has no idea where parts of the space station will land.

That is roughly 10 million times less likely than getting hit by lightning.

The current estimated trajectory by the European Space Agency has the space station somewhere between 43 degrees north latitude and 43 degrees south - which is a massive area on a global map. Smaller pieces will land on Earth, we just don't know where.

  • Rogelio Becker