Rocket Debris Rain

Out-of-Control Chinese Rocket Reportedly Dropped Debris on Africa

"Did they perhaps have a plan to de-orbit it that went wrong?"

5. 13. 20 by Victor Tangermann
Aminata24 via Twitter
Image by Aminata24 via Twitter

On Monday, the core of China’s colossal Long March 5B rocket made an uncontrolled descent back to Earth. Massive chunks of the rocket screamed over and over several major US cities before splashing down in the Atlantic Monday afternoon, as confirmed by the US Air Force.

Now, it sounds as though parts falling off it may have left a trail of debris. According to The Verge, bits of the rocket appear to have touched ground on the Ivory Coast. Local media reported that mysterious metallic objects were raining from the sky.

“When you have a big chunk of metal screaming through the upper atmosphere in a particular direction at a particular time, and you get reports of things falling out of the sky at that location, at that time, it’s not a big leap to connect them,” Harvard-Smithsonian astronomer Jonathan McDowell, who has closely followed the story about the falling rocket, told The Verge.

McDowell pointed out that the reported location of the debris aligns with the rocket’s path.


Some of the parts were as long as 12 meters (39 feet).

The events surrounding the messy reentry remain mysterious.


“Did they perhaps have a plan to de-orbit it that went wrong?” McDowell told The Verge. “The Chinese have not discussed whether they had any plan of the sort, so therefore we’re forced to assume that they didn’t.”

According to McDowell, the 21 metric ton rocket core was “the most massive object to make an uncontrolled reentry since the 39-tonne Salyut-7 [spacecraft] in 1991,” as he pointed out in a tweet last week.

It might not be the last time we’ll see Chinese rocket parts raining from the sky. China is currently working on its new space station, to be completed by 2022.

That means plenty of new objects will be “reentering a few days after launch,” as McDowell explained to The Verge. “And that’s not good.”


READ MORE: An out-of-control Chinese rocket may have dumped debris in Africa after falling from space [The Verge]

More on the rocket: Oops: China Just Dropped a Huge Rocket Piece Back to Earth

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