Chinese space station could make April Fool’s descent

Posted at 10:39 PM, Mar 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-29 22:40:18-04

LANSING, Mich. -- The Tiangong-1 space station has been racing around Earth for seven years, but the Chinese spacecraft is just days away from falling back down to Earth, and southern Michigan could be in its cross hairs.

There are still a lot of unknowns. Officials say it could fall anytime between now and Monday, with the most likely chance being on April Fool’s Day.

While experts stress it’s highly unlikely any of the space debris will make it to the Earth’s surface, Governor Rick Snyder on Thursday activated the state’s Emergency Operations Center to monitor the reentry.

“It’s very slim that we are going to be impacted by this,” says Capt. Chris Kelenske, deputy director of Emergency Management & Homeland Security. “The odds of somebody getting hit by this or having property damaged by this are slim.”

Launched in 2011, the failing space station has been de-orbiting for weeks.

“We have to be prepared, because if we fail to prepare then we are preparing to fail. And that’s not a risk that we can take," says Kelenske.

If Tiangong-1 breaks apart in the Michigan night sky, it will look like a shooting star.

“I would suspect that minus two hours to impact, we should have a better gauge about where it is going. It’s a very large area that will be impacted, from 43 degrees north latitude to 43 degrees south latitude," says Kelenske.

If debris lands in Michigan, the last thing you want to do is go near it: the material could be highly toxic.

“It’s important that they not touch it, because hydrazine, which is the fuel for that space station, could be on some of the objects that are there. It’s a hazardous material, and we want to make sure that nobody gets sick from that.”

Experts believe the space station will become space debris on April 1; they are thinking sometime around 4:30 a.m. However, pinpointing the time is very difficult.

You can follow the Chinese space craft as it zips around the Earth on the Aerospace website.