China’s first space station, the Tiangong-1, is headed back to Earth, though not in the manner the country had initially planned. Chinese officials have now admitted that they may have completely lost control of the vehicle and that it will likely plummet back to Earth some time in 2017.
The Tiangong-1, which measures just over 34 feet in length, will experience intense heat as it makes its way through Earth’s atmosphere on its way back down. The majority of the spacecraft is expected to burn up during its tumble, but bits and pieces will likely find their way back to the surface.
Chinese officials noted that they will monitor the path of the debris and provide a forecast for when and where any dangerous objects might come crashing down. At this point, it’s impossible to predict where the chunks of space junk might land.
The Tiangong-1 served as China’s space lab for over four years, after initially planned to be in service for just two. The country’s next space station, the Tiangong-2, is slated to launch this week. Hopefully, this one won’t land in your backyard.