No April Fools: A falling space lab could hit the Midwest and this is what the public could see

NASASpaceFlight.com's Chris Gebhardt

Chris Gebhardt of nasaspaceflight.com joins the Matt Bubala Show to talk about Tiangong-1, China’s falling space lab. This estimate went from a nine day window to a four day window, where the most likely day will be April 1.  The time of day is uncertain, but if it happens at night, it’s possible to see a fireball in the sky.

Gebhardt says Tiangong-1 is China’s first space station prototype, since they are not part of the International Space Program. This space station has helped China learn how to dock and live for a period of time on it. However, it has used all of its useful propellent, and unlike a tracked NASA spacecraft, there is no certainty where it could crash. “We are totally relying on gravity, it’s hard to predict,” Gebhardt says. Factors that could come into play are atmospheric conditions and how fast the spacecraft is falling.  It’s about nineteen thousand pounds and most of the spacecraft is expected to burn up before it even re-enters the surface of the Earth.  However, since there have been situations where this has happened in the past, NASA needs to make the public aware. “Some parts  that could survive re-entry are the heavier elements in the engine,” Gebhardt says. While there have been no confirmed cases of space debris injuring someone or causing property damage, Gebhardt says it’s still important to talk about. In the event parts may turn up in your backyard, Gebhardt says the debris could be toxic and local authorities should be called immediately.