Not debris but deadly hydrazine from falling Chinese space lab Tiangong-1 looms large

Middle East, New Zealand, northern states of US, Spain, Tasmania are under threat from out-of-control space lab


Tiangong-1, the Chinese space laboratory which has gone out of control will fall to earth in the next few weeks. Even though the chances of debris hitting the population are very limited, the major concern lies in the amount of hydrazine stored in the space laboratory that may endanger lives.

Hydrazine: A very dangerous chemical

Hydrazine is a very dangerous corrosive chemical, and in the worst scenario, hundreds of kilometers will get affected by the poisonous rain of debris. US Aerospace Corporation has warned that hydrazine could survive the re-entry and it may turn dangerous for people if it gets spilled in populated areas.

The Aerospace Corporation has also asked people not to touch any debris nor inhale the vapors it may emit.

According to the US Environmental Agency, hydrazine is a highly toxic substance known for causing seizures, coma, and even death.

"Symptoms of acute (short-term) exposure to high levels of hydrazine may include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, dizziness, headache, nausea, pulmonary edema, seizures, coma in humans. Acute exposure can also damage the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. The liquid is corrosive and may produce dermatitis from skin contact in humans and animals," said the US Agency.

They also hinted that hydrazine if dissolved in the sea, could also negatively impact the marine life.

When will Taingong-1 fall to earth?

In early March, the US Aerospace Corporation, the space station could fall to earth between March 24 and April 19. But now, a better data analysis has revealed that the space laboratory will fall on earth on March 31, plus or minus two or three days.

However, experts are still unclear regarding the area in which the spacecraft will re-enter. A report from Aerospace Corporation indicates that space lab will fall somewhere between 43° north and 43° south latitudes. Some of the countries which are at risk include New Zealand, northern states of the United States, Spain, Tasmania and countries in the middle east.

Fortunately, the chances of the debris reaching the earth's surface are very low, and even if it happens, most of the debris will likely fall into the ocean.