China’s space station is falling, when and where will it land? Nobody knows. In 2011, China proudly launched Tiangong-1, the country first prototype space station.
Since its launch, the space station’s name, which can be translated into “Heavenly Palace 1” was able to complete “two orbital transfer maneuvers, reaching an apogee altitude of 362 kilometers (225 mi).”
However, it appears that since 2013, officials have lost control of the station. Instead of telling the world the truth, the government claimed that Tiangong-1 was put in sleep mode. The Chinese said the last crew to travel Tiangong-1 was in June 2013, and they left it in orbit to “collect data on the longevity of key components.”
A bit more about the last crew to visit Tiangong-1:
“On 15 June 2013, the Shenzhou 10 crew completed China’s first orbital maintenance operation, replacing Tiangong-1’s interior cladding. Additional maintenance work was conducted on the space station’s seal rings. On 20 June, Wang Yaping delivered a remote video lecture from orbit to students across China, demonstrating physics in microgravity with her colleagues. On 24 June, CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping contacted the astronauts via remote video link to congratulate them. After a series of successful docking tests, Shenzhou 10 undocked and returned safely to Earth on 26 June 2013. With a duration of 15 days, Shenzhou 10 was China’s longest manned space mission to date.”
In March of 2016, the module ended the data collection, and now the plan is “to perform a controlled descent and burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.” The 9.4-ton spacecraft will “descend gradually in the coming months, and the space laboratory will eventually be destroyed by heat in Earth’s atmosphere around 2016 to 2017.”
Asked about what exactly will happen to the space station, when will it be destroyed and where will the piece land? There are no answers. Here is what China had to say:
“Tiangong-1 was not designed nor planned to be a permanent orbital station; rather, it is intended as a testbed for key technologies that will be used in China’s large modular space station, which is planned for launch in 2023.”
Tiangong-2 was launched on 15 September 2016.