"It has been calculated that the probability someone will be struck by space shrapnel debris is about 1 million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot!"
Launched in 2011, the Chinese Tiangong-1, which translates to "Heavenly Palace", 40 foot long space station hosted two crews of astronauts in 2012 and 2013, including China's first female taikonaut (Chinese Astronaut), Liu Yang, in 2012. Its major goal was to test and master technologies related to orbital rendezvous and docking. It is identified by its UN COSPAR ID 2011-053A or NORAD ID 37820.
Tiangong-1 completed its service in 2016 and lost contact with Chinese mission control that year. Since then it's orbit steadily decayed (losing altitude).
*Source: China Manned Space - http://en.cmse.gov.cn/col/col1763/index.html
The station MAY contain large amounts of toxic chemicals including hydrazine, which is a known carcinogen that has been linked to cancer in humans. The Aerospace Corporation's Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies (CORDS) said a recent warning message, "Potentially, there may be a highly toxic and corrosive substance called hydrazine on board the spacecraft that could survive reentry. For your safety, do not touch any debris you may find on the ground nor inhale vapors it may emit."
Robert Pearlman, editor in chief of the space history and memorabilia site (and Space.com partner) collectSPACE, told Space.com, The law of finders-keepers doesn't apply to space junk. "Any pieces of Tiangong-1 that reach the ground, regardless of where they fall, remain the property of China until the Chinese government explicitly relinquishes ownership". Such ownership is spelled out in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which both China and the United States have signed, Pearlman explained. Besides pieces of the craft could possibly be toxic or radioactive - So should you happen on a part of the spacecraft stay well away and inform your local authorities.
In 1979 America's 77 ton Skylab Space Station fell from orbit, spreading pieces of space junk south of Western Australia. A park service official in Western Australia fined the U.S. $400 for littering. The ticket was issued as a gag and in good fun, and NASA never paid off the $400 fine, though locals donated the money owed and paid the fine for NASA.
In 1991 the Soviet Salyut 7 space station also crashed to Earth, and radioactive fragments from Russian nuclear satellite Kosmos 954 crashed in northern Canada in 1978. The last space outpost to fall from orbit was Russia's 135-ton Mir space station in 2001, which made a controlled landing with most of the debris breaking up in Earth's atmosphere.
For spacecraft that still remain in control after their useful life is over, mission controllers guide their reentry to a special place on Earth called the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility, a two and a half mile deep area in the ocean known as the "spacecraft cemetery" located approximately 3,000 miles off the East coast of New Zealand and 2,000 miles north of Antarctica. According to Popular Science over 263 spacecraft have crashed at the cemetery since 1971.
It has been calculated that the probability someone will be struck by space shrapnel debris is about "1 million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot!"
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