ROME. A 20-ton metal cylinder is crashing uncontrollably towards Earth. And it almost certainly won’t completely disintegrate upon contact with the atmosphere. This is the second stage of the Chinese “Long March 5B” rocket, launched on April 29 to send the first module of the new Beijing space station into space. Now the booster, separated from the main module, is slowly decaying from its orbit and has become a potentially dangerous ‘space waste’.
On April 29, China launched the first module of its space station, now a shower of debris is feared
The Chinese authorities, of course, have assured that the risk of damage to Earth “is extremely low” and that any debris should still end up in the ocean: “Most of the components will be destroyed by ablation during re-entry into the atmosphere, only a very small portion could fall on Earth, potentially on areas far from human activities or in the ocean, ”explained a spokesman for the Beijing Foreign Minister. In reality, it is quite difficult to make reliable predictions, both on the consequences of the impact with the atmosphere, and on the exact moment in which this impact will occur.
Probably in the night between Saturday and Sunday, shortly after one o’clock (Italian time), according to the latest calculations based on data from the North American Aerospace Defense Command, with a margin of uncertainty of about 9 hours, sooner or later. Also from the United States, the Pentagon has ruled out the possibility of intercepting and shooting down the wreck of the rocket, which travels at a height of 170 km and turns around the Earth about every 90 minutes: this does not allow to calculate its fall trajectory. at a predetermined point. The hypothesis that the debris ends up in the sea, therefore, is only an exercise of optimism by the Chinese, which does not convince the experts of our Civil Protection: “It is not yet possible to exclude the remote possibility that one or more fragments may fall on Italy », Is the position left by the Department, after the first meeting of the technical table in which, in addition to the Italian Space Agency, a member of the office of the Military Advisor of the Prime Minister and representatives of the Fire Brigade, Coi (Operational Command interforze), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ENAC, ENAV, Ispra and the Conference of the Regions.
A few days ago, in fact, in the simulations carried out, the large area affected by the possible rain of debris also included the South of our country. Maximum attention to the analyzes and projections for the next few hours, when we should begin to circumscribe the time and place of the fall with greater precision. It must be said that the Chinese are repeat offenders, because a similar accident already occurred exactly a year ago, six days after the first flight of the “Long March 5B”: the debris of the rocket fell in Africa, more precisely in the Ivory Coast, damaging houses and villages.