NASA calls China irresponsible after rocket debris makes ocean landing

2021.05.09
NASA calls China irresponsible after rocket debris makes ocean landing

The U.S. national space agency criticized China for “failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris” after remnants of a Chinese rocket landed in the Indian Ocean on Sunday.

The majority of the rocket’s components burned up upon re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, according to a statement from the China Manned Space Agency, released after days of speculation as to where the debris would land.

“Spacefaring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations,” said Bill Nelson, the administrator at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the U.S.

“It is critical that China and all spacefaring nations and commercial entities act responsibly and transparently in space to ensure the safety, stability, security and long-term sustainability of outer space activities.”

The U.S. Space Command confirmed that China’s Long March-5B Y2 carrier rocket re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere over the Arabian Peninsula but said that it was unknown whether the debris impacted land or water.

“The exact location of the impact and the span of debris, both of which are unknown at this time, will not be released by U.S. Space Command,” the agency said in a statement.

The China Manned Space Agency said the debris had landed at sea with the coordinates of longitude 72.47 degrees east and latitude 2.65 degrees north.

Following the agency’s statement, Chinese netizens criticized Western media for hyping up the possibility that the debris could strike land and cause damage.

“An ocean reentry was always statistically the most likely,” tweeted Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

“It appears China won its gamble (unless we get news of debris in the Maldives),” McDowell’s tweet continued. “But it was still reckless.”

The first version of the Long March-5B carrier rocket had its maiden flight in May 2020. Parts of the rocket later landed in the Ivory Coast, resulting in damage to buildings but no injuries.

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