There is currently a massive Chinese rocket hurtling back down toward Earth — and nobody yet knows for sure where it will land.
While the situation poses a potentially serious threat to the U.S. and other nations, the Biden administration has not yet made any plans to attempt to fire on it and break the object up into smaller pieces, the Washington Examiner reports.
“Almost the body of the rocket”
U.S. Space Command is reportedly tracking the rocket, but a spokesperson said it is too early to accurately chart its expected course.
“There are too many factors to take into account this early, such as the atmospheric conditions and the exact angle of the object as it enters the atmosphere,” the source explained.
Although it is not altogether unusual for orbiting objects to re-enter the atmosphere and tumble toward the planet below, the vast majority tend to burn up in the process and pose no real threat. This large rocket, however, is about 100 feet long and weighs roughly 46,000 pounds, meaning it is unlikely to entirely combust on re-entry and will end up hitting the planet somewhere — either on land and or in water.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby addressed the developing events during a press conference on Wednesday, where he fielded questions regarding whether Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had been briefed and if there were any plans within the agency to possibly shoot down the rocket.
“The secretary is aware, and he knows that Space Command is tracking — literally tracking — this rocket debris,” he said of Austin. “It’s almost the body of the rocket, as I understand it, almost intact, coming down, and we think Space Command believes, somewhere around the 8th of May.”
“Too soon to know”
Kirby reiterated that it is “too soon to know exactly where it’s going to come down,” noting that the administration continues to receive regular updates.
He went on to advise that it was also “too soon to explore options” including an attack on the rocket until more could be determined about its trajectory, attempting to skirt the issue in subsequent related questions.
USA Today described the rocket as a Chinese Long March 5B, which was launched on April 29 from the Wenchange Space Launch Center to deliver into orbit the core module for a space station currently being built. There are expected to be at least 10 additional launches of similar rockets as the construction continues.
The design of most rockets includes a first-stage booster that detaches and falls back down to earth, typically into the ocean, prior to entering the atmosphere, but this rocket does not, meaning the spent remains after the payload detaches — about 100 feet — is unlikely to burn up during re-entry.
One official reported that objects from space fall to Earth about every three days but typically go unnoticed. Hopefully, those responsible for plotting the path of this one will have plenty of time to take appropriate action if it is on target to hit any densely populated area.