Debris from a Chinese rocket has hurtled towards Earth’s atmosphere and burned up, according to Chinese state media, with unconfirmed footage shared all over social this afternoon of what many thought could be the remnants falling from space.
According to People’s Daily China, the chunk of China’s Long March 5B rocket landed in the Indian Ocean at longitude 72.47 degrees east and latitude 2.65 degrees north at 2:24pm NZ time on Sunday.
Most of the debris reportedly broke up over the Indian Ocean, near the Maldives.
People in the Middle East and Spain were certain they’d seen it re-enter, taking videos of small specks of light flying through the sky sharing them on social media.
There was great uncertainty surrounding the point of re-entry, with experts unsure where the rocket would land for much of the day.
Earlier today, predictions for where it was expected to drop shifted from near New Zealand as previously reported.
What is the Long March 5B rocket?
China’s Long March 5B rocket was used to launch the main module of its first permanent space station to host astronauts long term, the latest success for a programme that has realised a number of its growing ambitions in recent years.
The launch begins the first of 11 missions necessary to complete, supply and crew the station by the end of next year.
China’s space programme has also recently brought back the first new lunar samples in more than 40 years and expects to land a probe and rover on the surface of Mars later next month.
The space programme is a source of huge national pride, and Premier Li Keqiang and other top civilian and military leaders watched the launch live from the control centre in Beijing. A message of congratulations from state leader and head of the ruling Communist Party Xi Jinping was also read to staff at the Wenchang Launch Centre.
The launch furthers the “three-step” strategy of building up China’s manned space programme and marks “an important leading project for constructing a powerful country in science and technology and aerospace,” Xi’s message said.
When completed by late 2022, the T-shaped Chinese Space Station is expected to weigh about 66 tons, considerably smaller than the International Space Station, which launched its first module in 1998 and will weigh about 450 tons when completed.
– additional reporting: AP
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