The out-of-control Long March 5B rocket that so fascinated the Western media re-entered Earth’s atmosphere over the Indian Ocean and burned up, the Chinese space engineering agency has said.
The much-covered piece of space junk from the Long March-5B Y2 rocket, which delivered part of China’s space station into orbit on April 29, was expected to come down during the night between Saturday and Sunday. Initial estimates from the China Manned Space Engineering Office, a department of the People’s Liberation Army, placed the re-entry in the eastern Mediterranean.
However, the CMSEO said the rocket made re-entry at 10:24am Beijing time (02:24 GMT) and fell into the ocean around 72.47 E longitude and 2.65 N latitude. Most of it burned up on re-entry, as the Long March descended at an average speed of eight kilometers per second (five miles per second).
An earlier statement put the re-entry point at 34.43 degrees north latitude and 28.38 degrees east longitude, which is above the Mediterranean Sea, about 200 kilometers off the southern coast of Turkey.
Minutes before the statement appeared in the media, witnesses reported observing a bright object streaking through the night skies in the Middle East, with reports and videos pouring in from countries such as Jordan and Oman. After the spectacular fly-by, the rocket headed over the Indian Ocean and flew over Perth, Australia, according to online trackers.
The uncontrolled descent of the 30-meter (100-foot) rocket booster, weighing more than 22 tons, had the media across the world abuzz for days, as no one could predict where it might re-enter – and if it would cause any damage if it crashed on an inhabited area.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters on Friday that the rocket was made from material designed to burn up on re-entry, and that most of the debris would disintegrate.
“The threat to air navigation and objects on the ground is extremely low,” he said.
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