Hours after remnants of China’s biggest rocket Long March 5B re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrated near Maldives in the Indian Ocean on Sunday, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, criticised the country. The debris is the core booster stage of the rocket that launched the first module of the new Chinese space station Tiangong-3 on April 29, according to BBC.
“It is clear that China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris, NASA Administrator and United States Senator Bill Nelson said in a statement. “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.”
On Sunday morning, Chinese state media reported parts of the rocket re-entered the atmosphere at 10.24 am Beijing time (7.29 am IST) and landed at a location with the coordinates of longitude 72.47 degrees east and latitude 2.65 degrees north, Reuters reported. China Manned Space Engineering Office said most of the debris was burnt up in the atmosphere.
Space-Track, a space monitoring agency that uses US military data, said that the “rocket was down”.
The US Space command also confirmed the re-entry of the rocket over the Arabian Peninsula, but said it was unknown if the debris impacted land or water. “The exact location of the impact and the span of debris, both of which are unknown at this time, will not be released by US Space Command,” it said in a statement on its website.
There had been much speculation on where the debris of the Chinese rocket would come down. However, experts had predicted that it was most likely to crash in the oceans, given that 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water.
The Long March was the second deployment of the 5B variant since its maiden flight in May 2020. Last year, pieces from the first Long March 5B fell on Ivory Coast, damaging several buildings. No injuries were reported. This rocket was blasted off from China’s Hainan island on April 29.