After days of speculation over where the debris would hit, a big part of the Long March 5B rocket fell into the Indian Ocean near the Maldives. Uncontrolled de-orbits are not unheard of. There have been several instances when debris of rockets and space stations has made a risky reentry into the planet. This is yet another reminder to space-faring nations to take space junk seriously.A core segment of China’s biggest rocket re-entered Earth’s atmosphere above the Maldives in the Indian Ocean and most of it burned up early Sunday, according to the country’s space agency.The Long March 5B rocket carried the main module of China’s first permanent space station — Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony — into orbit on April 29.Usually, discarded rocket stages re-enter the atmosphere soon after liftoff, normally over water, and don’t go into orbit. However, the roughly 100-foot long rocket stage did not fall soon after discharging its payload. China’s space program hasn’t said why it put the main component of the rocket into space rather than allowing it to fall back to earth, as is usual in such operations. It is to be noted that China plans 10 more launches to carry additional parts of the space station into orbit.Uncontrolled de-orbits are not unheard of. One of the largest ever was NASA’s 77-ton Skylab de-orbit which occurred in 1979. NASA was not able to prevent it from sinking out of orbit, and it eventually came down over the Indian Ocean but also over populated areas of Western Australia.Space debris (also known as space junk, space pollution, space waste, space trash, or space garbage) is defunct human-made objects in space—principally in Earth orbit—which no longer serve a useful function. These include derelict spacecraft—nonfunctional spacecraft and abandoned launch vehicle stages—mission-related debris, and particularly numerous in Earth orbit, fragmentation debris from the breakup of derelict rocket bodies and spacecraft. In addition to derelict human-built objects left in orbit, other examples of space debris include fragments from their disintegration, erosion and collisions, or even paint flecks, solidified liquids expelled from spacecraft, and unburned particles from solid rocket motors. Space debris represents a risk to spacecraftObjects in Low Earth Orbit travel at speeds up to 10km/second, fast enough to cause significant damage to satellite, spacecraft, or spacewalking astronauts. The rising number of space debris increases the potential danger to all space vehicles, especially to ones with humans aboard, the International Space Station (ISS), for instance.
Space trash is often attracted by Earth’s gravitational pull. It is pulled lower and lower until it finally reaches Earth’s atmosphere. Most objects burn up when they enter Earth’s atmosphere due to the compression of atmospheric gases, but larger objects can reach the Earth intact. But most of them fall into the ocean, simply because Earth is mostly covered by water. According to NASA website, an average of one catalogued piece of debris has fallen back to Earth each day over the last 50 years. But there have not been any significant damage.
the US Space Surveillance Network reported nearly 20,000 artificial objects in orbit above the Earth, including 3,372 operational satellites. However, these are just the objects large enough to be tracked. As of January 2019, more than 128 million pieces of debris smaller than 1 cm (0.4 in), about 900,000 pieces of debris 1–10 cm, and around 34,000 of pieces larger than 10 cm (3.9 in) were estimated to be in orbit around the Earth.The solution involves steps to clean up the mess, mitigate damage, and avoid future debris. There are systems in place to track the debris and avert disasters. Various space organisations have been working on reducing the amount of trash by adopting better designs of rockets and other objects. For example, making rockets reusable could vastly cut down waste.The UK’s TechDemoSat-1 (TDS-1), launched in 2014, was designed in such a way that once its mission is over, a system, like a parachute, would drag the satellite to re-enter the atmosphere and burn up. Some satellites at the end of their lifecyle are made to fall out of orbit and burn up in the atmosphere, provided they still have fuel left in them for the descent.Shift satellites to Graveyard orbit