Chinese space station plummeting to Earth: impact or breakup imminent

The Chinese space station Tiangong-1 is supposed to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere at about 12:30 a.m. UTC, or about 1.7 hours from this posting.  It’s not clear exactly where it’ll land, or if any pieces will make it to Earth, but the latest prognostication is somewhere off the west coast of South America.

It’s been up there for 6.5 years, and there is no longer human control of its orbit.  Go to this site to follow its progress, and see the video below for the story up to now. Here’s the live feed, courtesy of reader Peter N (see comments):

The background:

h/t: Tim


  1. freiner
    Posted April 1, 2018 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    That is a weird looking space station. It should put its flashers on and pull out its stop sign before crashing.

    • nicky
      Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:05 am | Permalink

      I think that part resembling a bus is not really part of the space-station, but put there to get an idea of scale. 🙂

      • Posted April 2, 2018 at 7:35 am | Permalink

        No kidding!

        • Kev
          Posted April 2, 2018 at 7:56 am | Permalink

          The space station was included in the photograph to give a sense of scale to the bus.
          Since the space station is the size of a coke can, I would calculate that that is not a real bus, but it is actually a 1950’s Dinky toy.

      • glen1davidson
        Posted April 2, 2018 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        No, the station’s on a school bus route.

        Hulluva commute. Ah come on, someone had to say it.

        Glen Davidson

  2. BobTerrace
    Posted April 1, 2018 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    It is failing due to the excessive use of monosodium glutamate.

    • BobTerrace
      Posted April 1, 2018 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

      oops, sub

  3. Christian
    Posted April 1, 2018 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    Sheesh, that Elon Musk…
    Didn’t know he put a whole school bus into orbit before pulling his Tesla-stunt :mrgreen:

    • freiner
      Posted April 1, 2018 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

      His original design had a school bus on each side, but c’mon … that was just dumb.

  4. Susan van Druten
    Posted April 1, 2018 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    My husband, who has been following it for the last 5 hours, predicts it will crash in Africa within the next hour. It’s starting to fall pretty quickly.

    • Posted April 1, 2018 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

      It is dropping quickly now but it is expected to bounce up again before its final plunge.

  5. Peter N
    Posted April 1, 2018 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a live stream with a running commentary by a reasonably well-informed person:

  6. Andrea Kenner
    Posted April 1, 2018 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    There’s a school bus up there? Oh no!

  7. grasshopper
    Posted April 1, 2018 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Skylab missed me. My luck might run out this time.

  8. Kev
    Posted April 1, 2018 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    Offer on Ebay:

    Job lot:
    Old school bus,
    prefabricated mobile home,
    5 solar panels.

    One previous, reasonably careful owner.
    Will arrive with some signs of wear and tear and one or two scorch marks.

    One only ready for delivery, though similar items may become available at unknown future date.

    Indirect consignment from China to practically any destination on the planet.

    Sender accepts no responsibility for damage occurring during consignment.
    No returns accepted.

    Make bid for this out of world offer.
    You will be over the Moon when this item reaches your address.

    High speed delivery guaranteed.

    • grasshopper
      Posted April 1, 2018 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

      Sounds out of this world, but do you have something more down to earth?

      • Kev
        Posted April 2, 2018 at 7:59 am | Permalink

        You can’t get much more down to earth than a bus doing re-entry except maybe a whale.

        • grasshopper
          Posted April 2, 2018 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

          Aah, Kev! You think the spacecraft was powered by an Infinite Improbability Drive, which can have unforseen side effects. What an apposite segue, for which I thank thee.
          From Douglas Adams’ “The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy”

          “Another thing that got forgotten was the fact that against all probability a sperm whale had suddenly been called into existence several miles above the surface of an alien planet.

          And since this is not a naturally tenable position for a whale, this poor innocent creature had very little time to come to terms with its identity as a whale before it then had to come to terms with not being a whale any more.

          This is a complete record of its thoughts from the moment it began its life till the moment it ended it.

          Ah … ! What’s happening? it thought.

          Er, excuse me, who am I?


          Why am I here? What’s my purpose in life?

          What do I mean by who am I?

          Calm down, get a grip now … oh! this is an interesting sensation, what is it? It’s a sort of … yawning, tingling sensation in my … my … well I suppose I’d better start finding names for things if I want to make any headway in what for the sake of what I shall call an argument I shall call the world, so let’s call it my stomach.

          Good. Ooooh, it’s getting quite strong. And hey, what’s about this whistling roaring sound going past what I’m suddenly going to call my head? Perhaps I can call that … wind! Is that a good name? It’ll do … perhaps I can find a better name for it later when I’ve found out what it’s for. It must be something very important because there certainly seems to be a hell of a lot of it. Hey! What’s this thing? This … let’s call it a tail – yeah, tail. Hey! I can can really thrash it about pretty good can’t I? Wow! Wow! That feels great! Doesn’t seem to achieve very much but I’ll probably find out what it’s for later on. Now – have I built up any coherent picture of things yet?


          Never mind, hey, this is really exciting, so much to find out about, so much to look forward to, I’m quite dizzy with anticipation …

          Or is it the wind?

          There really is a lot of that now isn’t it?

          And wow! Hey! What’s this thing suddenly coming towards me very fast? Very very fast. So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide sounding name like … ow … ound … round … ground! That’s it! That’s a good name – ground!

          I wonder if it will be friends with me?

          And the rest, after a sudden wet thud, was silence.

          • Kev
            Posted April 2, 2018 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

            I can only imagine what the final thoughts of a school bus might be. Probably quite prosaic if any!

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