It’s 10-stories tall and twice as heavy as a school bus, and it’s set to crash back to Earth this weekend — but no one is quite sure where or when.
A piece of a rocket launched by China in late April is expected to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere sometime late Saturday or early Sunday, according to experts and officials.
The 98-foot-long, 20-ton section of China’s Long March 5B rocket is tumbling through space in an uncontrolled orbit at 18,000 miles per hour after blasting off last month carrying part of the country’s new space station.
And while it’s common for pieces of rockets to fall back to Earth, this particular section has drawn concern because its lack of control means experts aren’t sure where it will come down.
Scientists say the risk of it killing anyone after it re-enters the planet’s atmosphere is small but not impossible: There is a tiny chance the debris could hit New York, Los Angeles, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, the Nigerian capital of Abuja or Beijing. It will more likely land in an ocean or the wilderness.
Asked about the rocket Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said it would burn up on re-entry calling its descent “common international practice.”
“The probability of causing harm to aviation activities or activities on the ground are extremely low.” he said.
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SOURCE: NBC News, Alexander Smith