Des Moines, Iowa – An empty Chinese space station is expected to fall back to earth as soon as Friday and it’s possible pieces of it that survive the fiery reentry may fall on Iowa. Allison Jaynes, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Iowa, says Tiangong-1 will likely come down between now and Monday and there’s a wide path of possible landing spots, including 1us.
There are many unknowns as to when and where the space station will fall, but Jaynes notes, since 71-percent of the Earth’s surface is water, the odds are better than seven in ten it won’t hit land.
Launched in 2011, Tiangong — which means “Heavenly Palace” in Chinese — is roughly the size of a school bus and weighs about nine-and-a-half tons. It’s 34-feet long and is filled with all sorts of equipment, large oxygen tanks, two beds and some exercise gear, as well as two large solar arrays or wings.
So how should Iowans be conducting themselves over the next few days? Should we be wearing helmets if we dare to go outside?
The American space station, Skylab, fell in 1979. It was much larger than Tiangong — Skylab was 85 tons or about nine-times heavier — and some large pieces did strike land in Australia. A small town there famously tried to charge NASA a fine of $400 for littering.
To track the location of the space station, follow this link.