Chinese Rocket Debris Falls Back to Earth

Words by Raco Ramoso

Debris from the Chinese Long March 5B rocket fell back to Earth on Sunday, May 9, 2021, following its launch last April 29, from China’s Hainan Island.

chinese long march 5

Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images

It re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere at 10:24 in the morning Beijing time according to the China Manned Space Engineering Office. According to authorities, the remnants of the rocket landed at a location in the Indian Ocean near the Maldives, specifically at coordinates longitude 72.47 degrees east and latitude 2.65 degrees north.

There were several warnings that the debris from the Chinese rocket is expected to uncontrollably fall to Earth this weekend. Despite its components getting destroyed upon the rocket’s entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, the debris did not cause any harm.

This project has been a controversial topic due to the rocket’s uncontrollable system. To others, such as Jonathan McDowell from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, it was seen as a sign of negligence.

This is the rocket’s second deployment after its first flight in May 2020. In its previous flight, pieces of the rocket fell on Ivory Coast which eventually damaged several buildings. Fortunately, there were no injuries reported. According to McDowell in his interview with BBC News, “These two incidents [the one now and the Ivory Coast one] are the two largest objects deliberately left to re-enter uncontrolled since Skylab in 1979.” He was referring to a situation in 1979, when pieces of the US space station Skylab fell into Earth, specifically across Western Australia. These pieces were left alone to re-enter Earth, similar to the two recent flights of the Chinese Long March 5B.

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