A defunct Chinese satellite the size of a bus is screaming back towards earth and could re-enter the atmosphere on Easter Sunday.
The non-profit Aerospace Corporation's latest estimate, published today, predicts the Tiangong-1 will make its grand return at 6:30 a.m. EST, give or take 16 hours on either end. (The European space agency's estimate is pretty similar, and Chinese government experts give the satellite a more generous March 31 to April 2 window.)
As to where, exactly, the pieces of the satellite that survive the atmospheric burn-up will land, experts are far less certain. The Aerospace Corporation can only say any falling debris will most likely land somewhere between the 43 degrees North and 43 degrees South latitude -- a band that covers most of the globe, from New York to southern Chile.
But don't worry, experts expect most of the satellite to burn up upon re-entry, and the odds of anyone getting bonked in the head are said to be less than one in a trillion.
It may have been tempting for the Chinese to take out the falling satellite with an anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon, as it did in 2007, but retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert Latiff told Code and Dagger the Chinese have already proven they have the capability, and the 2007 incident prompted some measure of international condemnation because of the debris field produced. (At the time, NASA called it “the single worst contamination of low Earth orbit (LEO) during the past 50 years.")
[UPDATE April 2: Tiangong-1 made good and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Easter Sunday evening, causing no damage, according to the Chinese government. Do you have a tip or question for Code and Dagger? Reach us at CodeAndDagger@protonmail.com. And if you like what you read and want to help keep the site running (kind of) smoothly, click here to learn how you can support the site. ]