After days of speculation and concern that a piece of debris from a Chinese rocket may crash into a populated area as it hurtled back towards Earth, the rocket landed in the Indian Ocean. Most of the rocket burned up during its uncontrolled descent through the atmosphere on Sunday (May 9).
The 98-foot-long, 20-ton piece of debris was from an April 29 launch of the Long March 5B rocket to carry a piece of the main module for China's new space station into orbit. Typically, the booster from the rocket is supposed to break off from the shuttle and fall back to Earth.
During the launch, one of the boosters reached speeds high enough to break free from Earth's gravity and began orbiting the planet. The rocket was not designed to be in low-earth orbit, and friction from the air caused it to slowly fall back towards the surface.
As it began an uncontrolled descent, space agencies from around the world started to track it, in the rare case that it would land near a large population center. New York, Los Angeles, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, and Beijing were all in the potential path of the rocket.
While the massive piece of space debris ultimately landed safely in the water, NASA criticized China for its failure to "meet responsible standards regarding their space debris."
"Spacefaring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations," NASA Administrator Senator Bill Nelson said in a statement.
Photo: Getty Images