After months of suspicion, China has finally confirmed their first space station is heading for Earth and is potentially out of control.
A senior official of the Chinese space program revealed at a press conference last week that the Tiangong-1 space station is likely to fall to Earth by 2017, Xinhua News Agency reports. They added it's currently intact and orbiting at a height of around 370 kilometers (230 miles).
"Based on our calculation and analysis, most parts of the space lab will burn up during falling," said Wu Ping, deputy director of China's manned space engineering office, during the press conference.
The officials said that the space agency will continue to follow the movement of Tiangong-1 and will release an update on its expected time of arrival if required.
The 10.3-meter-long (34-foot-long) Tiangong-1, which means “Heavenly Palace," was launched in 2011 as China’s first manned space station. It ended its mission in March this year. However, since then, numerous astronomers noted the space station appeared to be aimlessly drifting out of control and heading for Earth. The silence by the Chinese government only heightened uncertainties.
The officials did not comment on how much of the space station they still maintain. However, given the vague estimated landing time, it suggests very little.
China launched a new experimental space station, Tiangong-2, last week, and are planning to launch a fully fledged space station next decade.
Above, an artist's impression of what China's eventual space station may look like. Used with permission via Adrian Mann