BUFFALO – A Western New York science expert said a Chinese Space Station that crashed into the Pacific Ocean on Monday was in sleep mode a year before it came back into the atmosphere.
“The space station was launched in 2011 and was only meant to be in orbit for two years,” said Sarajane Gomlak-Green, a Science Communicator for the Buffalo Museum of Science. “In 2013, it went into sleep mode and it completely ran out of gas in 2016.”
China’s Tiangong-1 Space Lab, or “Heavenly Palace,” was one of China’s highest profile space projects.
“They thought it was going to crash down a lot sooner than it actually did,” said Gomlak-Green.
She said that the sleepy space station posed “little threat” to Americans on the ground.
“Very small threat, not much came down,” said Gomlak-Green. “If you think about it, it’s about the size of a pretty big school bus. When it did come down most of it burned up in the atmosphere.”
Scientists have been concerned in the past about objects floating around in space and coming back into the atmosphere to strike moving targets on the ground, but incidents are few and far between.
“There’s always possibilities like in the 1970’s Skylab – America’s First Space Station – when it came down,” said Gomlak-Green. “When that happened, I know people were concerned.
China launched another space lab, Tiangong-2, in September of 2016.