Rome, 7 May 2021 – The possibility cannot be ruled out at the moment, judged by the experts however remote, that freminders of the Chinese rocket in free fall in the atmosphere reach Italy. The first meeting of the technical table that will follow the operations of uncontrolled return to the atmosphere of the second stage of the Chinese Long March 5B rocket will be held this evening at 8.30 pm at the headquarters of the Civil Protection Department.
In addition to the ASI (Italian Space Agency), the meeting, which will take place via video link, will be attended by a member of the office of the Military Advisor of the Prime Minister, representatives of the Ministry of the Interior – Department of Fire, Defense – Coi (Joint Chief Operating Officer) and Foreign Affairs, ENAC, ENAV, Ispra and the Special Civil Protection Commission of the Conference of Regions. Based on the latest data provided by ASI, at the moment the return to earth is scheduled for Sunday 9 May, with a large window of uncertainty. It is therefore not yet possible to exclude the remote possibility that one or more fragments of the satellite could fall on our territory.
There are “portions” of 9 central-southern regions which could be affected by caduta of fragments of the Chinese space rocket ‘Long March 5B’: Umbria, Lazio, Abruzzo, Molise, Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, Calabria, Sicily and Sardinia. The return to earth is scheduled for 2:24 am on 9 May, with a time window of uncertainty of ñ 6 hours. The indications come from the Operational Committee of the Civil Protection convened by the head of the Department, Fabrizio Curcio. The advice is to stay indoors and not in open places since “it is unlikely that the fragments cause the collapse of buildings.”
However, the Chinese foreign ministry maintains that the risk of damage to Earth from the fallout of the rocket launched on April 29 to send the first module of the orbiting space station into space “is extremely low” and that it should be completely destroyed when it re-enters the atmosphere.
American military experts, on the other hand, expect the Long March 5B rocket, which separated from the central module of the Chinese space station, to return to Earth between Saturday and Sunday, and warn that it is difficult to predict where and when it will fall.
China has invested billions of dollars in space exploration in an effort to grow its global stature as a technological powerhouse, following in the footsteps of the United States, Russia and Europe. Amid fears about the return rocket’s trajectory, which have multiplied on social media, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said yesterday that the US military has no plans to shoot it down. “We have the ability to do a lot of things, but we don’t have a plan to bring it down,” he said.
Space has become the last theater of the great power struggles between China and the United States. The April 29 launch of the first module of the Heavenly Palace space station in April, which houses life support equipment and space useful for astronauts, was a key step in Beijing’s ambitious plan to establish a permanent human presence in space. President Xi Jinping called it fundamental in “building a great nation of science and technology”. With the withdrawal of the International Space Station (ISS), China could become a nation to have a permanent space station in Earth orbit.
© All rights reserved