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Remains of Chinese missile dumped into sea

In this file photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a Long March 5B rocket takes off with a

In this file photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, a Long March-5B rocket with a module for a Chinese space station lifts off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Wenchang, South China’s Hainan province. photo

© Ju Zhenhua/Xinhua via AP/dpa

Debris from the Chinese missile falls into the Sulu Sea near the Philippines. No problem, says the Chinese space agency. NASA and other experts see things differently.

The “uncontrolled” reentry of a large Chinese space rocket into Earth’s atmosphere has sparked international criticism. According to official information from Beijing, the remains have fallen into the sea near the Philippines. Most of the final stage of the “Long March 5B-Y3” rocket was burned, China’s space program reported, according to the official Xinhua news agency. The remaining debris fell east of the Philippine island of Palawan in the Sulu Sea.

Last Sunday, the rocket launched the “Wentian” space module with a laboratory for the Chinese space station “Tiangong” (Heaven’s Palace), which is currently under construction. The re-entry took place on Sunday at 00:55 CEST (6:55 PM CEST). Even if experts considered the chances of people or populated areas being affected to be slim, the Chinese approach has been criticized by NASA and experts.

NASA criticizes lack of information sharing

“The People’s Republic of China has not shared any specific trajectory information,” NASA chief Bill Nelson said. This kind of information exchange is “critical to the responsible use of space and the safety of people here on Earth”. China had previously been criticized by NASA for not breaking up into smaller parts when it entered the atmosphere, as is the international standard.

“No other country leaves these 20-ton things in orbit to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere in an uncontrolled way,” astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics told CNN. “What we really want to know is if any parts are going to end up on the ground.” It may take a little longer to become known. Residents of Sarawak in Malaysia observed a spectacle of lights in the night sky, which they first thought was a meteor.

When China launched the main module of the space station in April 2021, the remains of the rocket used for this purpose fell into the Indian Ocean near the archipelago of the Maldives, also sparking criticism. Here, too, the Chinese space program had claimed that the “largest part” of the rocket burned up when it entered Earth’s atmosphere and was thus destroyed.

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