Communist Party of China mouthpieces have been losing no time knocking foreign media and authorities, particularly the government of the US state of Michigan, which declared a state of emergency a few days ago in fear that the decommissioned Chinese space lab Tiangong-1 could plunge on to its soil and wreak havoc.
“That’s perhaps the best April Fool’s Day prank that I’ve ever heard.” That was the response of China National Space Administration chief Tang Dengjie to reports that the Michigan government had ordered police and first responders to stand by in the event of debris hurtling down from the sky.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder activated the state’s Emergency Operations Center at the end of March to monitor any space junk from the tumbling Tiangong-1. There was a possibility of bits of the space lab landing in the southern Lower Peninsula of Michigan, according to the Aerospace Corporation, a US government contractor that provides research, development, and advisory services to national-security space programs.
China’s chief space-laboratory designer Zhu Zongpeng previously denied that Tiangong was out of control, but didn’t provide specifics on what, if anything, China was doing to guide the craft’s re-entry.
But nothing happened off of Beijing’s script during the de-orbit of the 8.5-ton Tiangong-1, which was roughly the size of a US school bus, on Monday after remnants that did not burn up during re-entry flopped into the middle of South Pacific.
Michigan was spared.
The China Manned Space Agency announced that Tiangong-1 re-entered the atmosphere at about 8:15am Beijing time on April 2. The crash-landing area was in the central region of the South Pacific, it said, adding that most of the debris disintegrated during the re-entry process.
The remains of the defunct space lab landed in a perfect location, the middle of the South Pacific, and there have been no reports of injuries or other misfortunes.
Officials at the US Joint Force Space Component Command said the satellite re-entered after 8pm Eastern Time. Their statement said the re-entry was confirmed “through coordination with counterparts in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom.”
An expert told Space.com that Tiangong-1 most likely began its re-entry over Malaysia, and started raining debris into the Pacific Ocean.
Fear about Tiangong-1’s return to Earth was “grossly overblown,” said the People’s Daily, and its trajectory into the South Pacific was a “slap in the face” to erroneous forecasts.
In the months prior to Monday’s atmospheric re-entry, foreign papers such as UK-based The Guardian kept spreading “demagoguery canards” that the space lab had been “running wild” for years and could spill “highly toxic and corrosive fuels such as hydrazine” once it hit any structure or even pedestrians on Earth.
Also, American conspiracy theorist Alex Jones warned that China’s first space station was careering toward the Earth and when it hit, “8.5 metric tons of burning metal and toxic chemicals will cover an area a thousand miles long.”
China Aviation News said the Chinese spacecraft was falling toward the Earth because it “ran out of fuel after circling in its orbit for years beyond its designed service life.”
The only thing that was out of control throughout was perhaps the “fear-mongering and tinfoil-hat speculation on the part of Western media,” sneered the Beijing-based nationalist paper Global Times in a commentary published on Tuesday.
Overseas papers badmouthing anything to do with China have once again made fools of themselves, concluded the op-ed.
Launched in September 2011, Tiangong-1 had a design life of two years, and wrapped up its mission after Shenzhou-10’s return to Earth in June 2013.