Chinese space station set to crash-land on Earth's surface within months

Space station

Space station

Meanwhile, China previous year launched Tiangong-2, which has hosted Chinese astronauts called taikonauts for 30 days in 2016 and subsequent unmanned missions.

China's "heavenly palace" is set to crash down to Earth in a matter of months after the country's space agency lost control of its orbit. The Tiangong-1 was used for both types of space missions - manned as well as unmanned and was visited by Liu Yang, China's first female astronaut in 2012. China's space agency has since notified the United Nations that it expects Tiangong-1 to come down between October 2017 and April 2018. In recent weeks it has dipped into more dense reaches of Earth's atmosphere and started falling faster.

Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard University astrophysicist, told The Guardian: 'Now that [its] perigee is below 300km and it is in denser atmosphere, the rate of decay is getting higher.

Although much of the craft is expected to burn up in the atmosphere, McDowell says some parts might still weigh up to 100kg when they crash into the Earth's surface.

'I expect it will come down a few months from now - late 2017 or early 2018'.

But there's an outside chance that it'll crash-land in an area where people live, and it'll be impossible to predict, even in the hours before landing, exactly where it'll hit.

"You really can't steer these things", he said in 2016. If we don't know when it's going to fall, we can't imagine where he'll fall.

McDowell said a slight change in atmospheric conditions could nudge the landing site "from one continent to the next".

In 1979, NASA's Skylab space station hit Australia during its own fall to Earth, and the Soviet Union's Salyut 7 space station followed suit over Argentina in 1991.

Back in 2016, China confirmed that the station's future was out of its hands and that it would crash sometime this year or the next, but the estimate has been refined to between now and April 2018.

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