Debris from an out-of-control Chinese rocket fell over the Indian Ocean

After putting the newest piece of land into orbit on July 24, a Chinese Long March 5B rocket re-entered Earth’s atmosphere on Saturday, creating a dazzling (if somewhat unsettling) spectacle as it crashed into the Indian Ocean . A Twitter user named Nazri Sulaiman captured a 27-second clip of the rocket’s first stage breaking up in the sky over Kuching, Malaysia. Sulaiman and others initially mistook the spacecraft for a meteor shower, until astronomers correctly identified the debris as the remains of a Chinese rocket.

Saturday afternoon, US Space Command Long March 5B reentered Earth’s atmosphere at 12:45 p.m. ET. China said most of the debris burned up on re-entry across the Sulu Sea between the Philippines and Malaysia. Unlike many modern rockets, including the SpaceX Falcon 9, the Long March 5B cannot re-ignite its engine to complete a controlled re-entry into the atmosphere. That has led to concerns about where the missile would land each time China launched one. During a test flight in 2020, remains of a Long March 5B resulted in property damage.

After Saturday’s reentry, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson criticized China for a lack of transparency. “The People’s Republic of China did not share specific trajectory information when its Long March 5B rocket fell back to earth,” he said . “All spacefaring nations should follow established best practices and do their part to share this type of information in advance to enable reliable predictions of the potential risk of debris impact, particularly for heavy-duty vehicles like the Long March 5B, which pose a significant risk loss of life and property.”

China plans to deploy the Long March 5B at least two more times. The rocket is scheduled to carry the third and final part of Tiangong into space in October. Next year it will do the same with the country’s Xuntian space telescope.

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