China's First Space Station Is Crashing Towards Earth: Space Authorities

Space station China
A Long March 2F rocket carrying China's first space laboratory module Tiangong-1 lifts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Jiuquan, China, September 29, 2011. The crashing module is expected to enter the Earth's atmosphere in late 2017. Lintao Zhang/Getty

China's maiden space station, Tiangong-1, will crash to Earth sometime in late 2017 as space authorities are reported to have lost control of the eight-tonne lab.

The prototype space station was launched back in September 2011.

Wu Ping, deputy director of China's Manned Space Engineering office, told reporters that most of the station will likely disintegrate in the atmosphere and pose little threat to people on the ground.

Tiangong-1 translates to mean "Heavenly Palace 1" and over the course of its five-year lifespan, the module conducted observations of various natural phenomena on Earth, including Australian bush fires and the Yuyao floods in the eastern Zhejiang province. It also pioneered the Chinese space program, performing the first successful Chinese docking in space, with Shenzhou-8, in November 2011.

Speaking at a satellite launch center in the Gobi Desert last week, Ping said Tiangong-1 had now "comprehensively fulfilled its historical mission" and was set to re-enter the earth's atmosphere at some point in the second half of 2017.

The announcement appeared to confirm months of speculation that China had lost control of the 10.4m-long module after it suffered some kind of technical or mechanical failure.

China's First Space Station Is Crashing Towards Earth: Space Authorities | World