A large piece of debris from a Chinese rocket is expected to crash this weekend. The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Orbital Reentry and Debris Studies (CORDS) has been monitoring the 25-ton booster from a Long March 5B rocket, which was launched on July 24th, and estimated that it will reenter the Earth’s atmosphere sometime between Saturday (July 30) and Monday.
While the booster will partially burn up as it falls back to Earth, up to nine tons could survive the reentry and crash into the ground.
Because of the uncontrolled nature of the rocket’s descent, it is almost impossible to predict precisely where the booster will land. CORDS has mapped out the possible debris field and said that it covers an area where 88% of the world’s population lives, including most of the United States.
“Why are we worried? Well, it did cause property damage the last time, and people are having to do preparation as a result,” Ted Muelhaupt, a space traffic expert and consultant with the Aerospace Corporations’ corporate chief engineer’s office, said, according to The Verge. “Furthermore, this is not needed. We have the technology to not have this problem.”
Muelhaupt did note that the likelihood of getting struck by a falling piece of space debris is highly improbable.
“The risk to any given individual in any given year from getting conked in the head by a piece of space debris is one in 100 billion,” Muelhaupt added. “You’re 80,000 times more likely to get hit by lightning than you are by space debris. But this doesn’t mean that this is a good thing to do.”