Hours after fragments of China’s largest and out-of-range rocket collapsed over the Indian Ocean across the Maldives, NASA criticized the country for failing to follow “responsible standards” about its space debris.
At 10.24 a.m. Beijing time, debris from China’s Long March 5B rocket re-entered the atmosphere and crashed in an open sea region at 72.47 degrees east longitude and 2.65 degrees north latitude, according to China’s Manned Space Engineering Office.
On April 29, the rocket launched the first unit of China’s new Tianhe space station into Earth’s orbit. The rocket stage is one of the largest objects to ever re-enter the Surface of the earth on an unstable trajectory, standing about 100 feet tall and weighing around 22 metric tonnes.
International uncertainty about where it would land arose, as a result of its re-entry. According to scientists, the danger to humans was relatively low, however, it was not unlikely for it to land in a populated area.
“It is clear that China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson stated in response to China’s space agency. In a quote, he said, “Spacefaring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations”.
Mr. Nelson, a former Florida senator and astronaut who was appointed to the position in March, said, “It is critical that China and all spacefaring nations and commercial entities act responsibly and transparently in space to ensure the safety, stability, security, and long-term sustainability of outer space activities”.
The vast majority of the massive Long March 5B rocket, was blown up as it managed to enter the atmosphere, according to a WeChat post by the China Manned Space Engineering Office, before landing just west of the Maldives.
If any debris had fallen on the atoll country, it was unknown.
Text by: Ipsita Ghosh