Chinese space station headed towards earth. Could it hit Idaho?

Posted at 12:57 PM, Mar 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-29 15:05:08-04

You may want to keep your eyes to the skies in the coming days as debris from China’s first space lab is expected to fall from space. Some debris could hit earth, but where it lands is anyone’s guess.

Back in 2011, China launched its first space lab called the Tiangong 1. The school bus sized space station served as an experimental lab for Chinese astronauts.

“They released in 2016 that they had lost communication with it and have since lost control of it. They believe it’s out of fuel and so it’s going to reenter soon back to earth,” said retired astronaut and Boise State University Distinguished Educator in Residence Steve Swanson.

The 8.5 ton ticking time bomb is estimated to reach earth sometime in the next few days. 

“It’s mostly going to burn up, however this is a dense enough vehicle that parts of it will make it back to earth and at that point it will hit somewhere on the earth,” said Swanson.

Scientists calculate much of the world will be spared, but parts of Idaho are in a large areas where scientists have said it's most likely to hit. But don’t go digging a tunnel just yet. Swanson said because of earth’s makeup the debris is most likely to hit water. 

“Even if it hits on land it most likely will hit an unpopulated area of land. People have done the calculations on the odds and it’s like one in a trillion it could hit somebody,” explained Swanson. “You have a higher chance of winning the lottery then getting hit by a piece of this debris.”

But it’s not impossible for it to hit someone, more like improbable.

While the spacecraft is small compared to most and doesn’t serve as a huge threat, Swanson said it’s only a matter of time before falling spacecraft do become a problem. 

“As time goes on were probably going to get more and more of these as things come down out of the sky so we are going to have to come up with a real plan on how to handle this more than just hope it doesn’t hit anybody,” said Swanson.