It could be the opening scene of a Hollywood movie.
And yet, the story is very real.
The main stage of the Chinese Long March 5B rocket is currently in orbit around the Earth… and is about to fall there.
The problem is that no one knows, for now, where it will land.
Not even when exactly the impact will take place.
Only certainty, according to experts, the object - which measures 30 meters long, five in diameter and weighs nearly 21 tons - is currently in orbit 270 kilometers above the Earth and moves at a speed of 27 790 km / h.
But it is impossible to know which trajectory it will take once it enters the atmosphere.
Read alsoChina launches Tianhe, the first "brick" of its own space station
The machine was launched on April 29, in order to propel the module
Tianhe, one of the very first elements of the future Chinese space station, which should be operational at the end of 2022. The day after takeoff, the Space News site warned that the debris could pose a problem.
"This will be one of the biggest landings of uncontrolled debris and it could potentially fall into a populated area," the site warned.
Metal bars in Ivory Coast
While in fiction this information would likely lead to the reveal of a hero willing to sacrifice himself to save the world, the reality is actually quite different. Because debris has a good chance of falling into an uninhabited area, such as the oceans, which still represent more than 70% of the Earth's surface, specifies the Space.com site. The risk of this rocket residue ending up on a human is even one in several trillions. Enough to make Jonathan McDowell, an English astrophysicist at Harvard University, say that he will not lose "a single second of sleep by [s] 'worrying about this risk", even if he stressed on CNN that it was "not insignificant, since it could happen".
CHINA SPACE STATION'S TIANHE LAUNCHED INTO ORBIT!
China just launched the core module of their new space station.
A Long March-5B rocket launched from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site at 11:22 AM PhST, carrying the #Tianhe module.
| video via @CGTNOfficial pic.twitter.com/LWkD7DjCXk
- Earth Shaker PH (@earthshakerph) April 29, 2021
Even though the chances of rocket remains falling on a human are very low, he believes that pieces of debris should resist entry into the atmosphere. What could be equivalent to the "crash of a small plane scattered over 100 miles", or about 160 kilometers. Moreover, the astrophysicist reminded the Guardian that the last time the Chinese "launched a Long March 5B, long metal rods fell and damaged several buildings in Côte d'Ivoire". Most of the debris had disintegrated, "but there was still these huge pieces of metal that ended up on the ground. We are very lucky that no one was injured, ”he added.
The fall is scheduled for May 8-10. The less fortunate still have a few days left to find shelter. And for the more adventurous, it is possible to follow the trajectory of the debris on the “orbiting now” site.