Chinese satellite falling to Earth in just hours

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CHINA (VOP TODAY NEWS) – Tiangong 1, China’s defunct and reportedly out-of-control space station, is about to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and on Sunday morning the European Space Agency (ESA) released new tracking information on the falling spacecraft. ESA officials have narrowed the likely window for re-entry to between 8 p.m. EDT Sunday and early Monday morning.

Meanwhile, the Aerospace Corp. is now forecasting a 10:30 p.m. EDT Sunday (0230 GMT Monday) crash, give or take seven hours.

The tumbling spacecraft poses only a slight risk to people and property on the ground, since most of the 8.5-ton vehicle is expected to burn up on re-entry, although space agencies don’t know exactly where that will happen.

Below are some questions and answers about the station, its re-entry and the past and future of China’s ambitious space program.

No one knows for sure. However, on Friday, before updating the latest time window, the Aerospace Corp. said the debris would most likely descend into the Pacific Ocean.

When the space station’s fall was forecast for noon EDT on Sunday (Aerospace has since moved its forecast back four and a half hours), an expert told Space.com that Tiangong-1 would likely begin its re-entry over Malaysia, and rain debris into the Pacific Ocean.

Earlier, the Aerospace Corp. also said it could land along a strip of the U.S. that includes the southern Lower Peninsula of Michigan. That promted Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to activate the state’s Emergency Operations Center to monitor the station.

Capt. Chris A. Kelenske, Michigan’s deputy director of emergency management and homeland security, said “the chances are slim that any of the debris will land in Michigan, but the state is monitoring the situation and is prepared to respond quickly if it does.”

A piece of the Chinese spacecraft is due to fall to Earth sometime on Easter Monday, the latest prediction from the European Space Agency has said.

In the latest re-entry forecast from the ESA has been pushed back from Easter Sunday to Monday April, 2.

The expected time period is between 12.25am UK time and later on Monday morning but stressed that this is “highly variable”.

The craft is about 120 miles from Earth, down from about 185 miles in January.