Debris from a Chinese rocket which was is expected to plunge through the earth’s atmosphere over the weekend has landed in the Indian Ocean near the Maldives early Sunday morning, China’s space administration announced. Earlier in the month, it was reported by China’s space administration that the scattered pieces of the rocket could hit Abuja, Beijing, New York, Los Angeles, Madrid, or Rio de Janeiro.
Parts from the Chinese Long March rocket which fell into the Indian Ocean near the Maldives was said to have burned up on re-entry, however, there were no immediate reports of damage from falling debris.
Videos on social media showed the 22-ton Long March 5B, which had been drifting uncontrolled in low orbit for days, blazing a trail of light over the Arabian Peninsula as it burned up during a descent. The Chinese agency said it reentered the Earth’s atmosphere at 10:24 p.m. Eastern time before finally landing at 72.47 degrees east and 2.65 degrees north, a location in the ocean southwest of the Maldivian capital Malé. “The vast majority of components was ablated and destroyed during re-entry into the atmosphere,” the Chinese agency said.
The rocket, a Long March 5B, launched the main module of China’s next space station, Tiangong, on April 29. Usually, the large booster stages of rockets immediately drop back to Earth after they are jettisoned, but the 23-ton core stage of the Long March 5B accompanied the space station segment all the way to orbit. Because of friction caused by the rocket rubbing against air at the top of the atmosphere, it soon began losing altitude, making what is called “uncontrolled re-entry” back to Earth inevitable.
China’s space administration, which had said nothing about uncontrolled re-entry until Sunday, announced that the debris had entered Earth’s atmosphere over the Mediterranean before flying over the Middle East and coming down near the Maldives, south of India. People in Israel and Oman reported sightings of the rocket debris on social media. The Maldives government had no immediate response to China’s announcement.