Chinese space station Tiangong-1 hurtling toward earth, will crashland within weeks

Counting begins for out-of-control space lab's imminent fall between 24 March and 19 April

Tiangong-1 lifts off
The Long March II-F rocket loaded with China's unmanned space module Tiangong-1 lifts off from the launch pad in the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu province September 29, 2011. China successfully launched an experimental craft paving the way for its first space station on Thursday amid a blaze of national pride, bringing the growing Asian power closer to matching the United States and Russia with a long-term manned outpost in space. Reuters

Chinese space station 'Tiangong-1' could crash land on the earth at any time from now, and experts are not able to predict where exactly the 8.5-tonne module will make the impact. After the Skylab's fall in 1979, this is the second out-of-control space lab that is creating panic among the people.

The US-funded Aerospace Corporation, which is tracking the debris, reveals that the space station will enter the atmosphere within the first week of April, while the European Space Agency estimates that the out-of-control space lab will reach the earth between 24 March and 19 April.

Chances of a huge impact

Tiangong-1 was launched in 2011, and it was China's first ever crewed space station. The mammoth space lab was supposed to end its operation in 2013, but the Chinese space agency decided to extend its lifespan for a couple of more years, and in this period of time, it went out of control.

Experts believe that more than 40 percent of the space lab will get burned up as it enters the atmosphere. But even if it happens, space debris weighing more than 3,200 kilograms will reach the earth's surface intact. If big parts of the space debris reach the earth, then there are chances of large casualties in the areas where it falls.

"If this should happen, any surviving debris would fall within a region that is a few hundred kilometers in size," said a statement issued by Aerospace Corporation.

The aerospace corporation also warned that the falling space station might be carrying highly toxic chemical called hydrazine.

Locations under threat

A report from the aerospace corporation reveals that the space laboratory will fall somewhere between 43° north and 43° south latitudes. Some of the areas which are under threat from the re-entry are Northern China, Middle Eastern countries, New Zealand, Tasmania, Spain and the northern states of the US. The Aerospace Corporation has assured that the chances of getting hit with space debris directly are very rare.

"When considering the worst-case location, the probability that a specific person will be struck by Tiangong-1 debris is about one million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot. In the history of spaceflight, no known person has ever been harmed by reentering space debris. Only one person has ever been recorded as being hit by a piece of space debris and, fortunately, she was not injured," said the Aerospace Corporation.