No, You're (Probably) Not Going To Be Crushed By A Rogue Chinese Rocket Falling From The Sky
Well, folks, if the existential fear stemming from the deadly Covid-19 pandemic wasn't enough to make us take a long, hard look at our own mortality, it seems we're about to face yet another terrifying reckoning making us question the fragility of life – a rogue 23-ton used Chinese rocket is making “an uncontrolled re-entry” down to Earth at roughly 18,000 miles per hour, with experts unsure of exactly where it will land.
Yet amid the hype, the countless headlines playing up the alarming prospects of a 10-story-tall Long March 5B rocket descending upon some unlucky location, likely on either Saturday or Sunday, there's one important element to keep in mind. Just like the probability of being killed by an adorable labsky or accidentally booking a press conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping presumably instead of the Four Seasons Hotel, (as Borat 2 star Rudy Giuliani) can confirm, the chances of getting crushed by the freefalling debris is low – never zero, but pretty damn low.
“No, you are almost certainly not going to be hit by a 10-story, 23-ton piece of a rocket hurtling back to Earth,” New York Times correspondents Steven Lee Myers and Kenneth Chang stated matter-of-factly in the first sentence of their Friday article on the topic. ”That said, the chances are not zero. Part of China’s largest rocket, the Long March 5B, is tumbling out of control in orbit after launching a section of the country’s new space station last week. The rocket is expected to fall to Earth in what is called 'an uncontrolled re-entry' sometime on Saturday or Sunday."
Despite uncertainties of its exactly landing location, experts have been able to narrow down the scope of where they expect the fragment to hit – “anywhere between 41.5 degrees north latitude and 41.5 degrees south latitude,” the article noted. This means that bustling populaces like Chicago, London, and Canada's Pee Pee Island are all safe from falling space junk, while New York City, Beijing, Rio De Janeiro, and Sydney all face some risk of getting whacked with debris.
Despite this ominous warning, it's important to keep a few factors in mind as the falling rocket plays everyone's favorite party game, pin-the-massive-hunk-of-space-metal-on-the-planet. Although scientists won't be able to pinpoint the exact location until the fall is more imminent, the Aerospace Corporation, "a nonprofit largely financed by the federal government that performs research and analysis," per the New York Times, has estimated one possibility in which the rocket will land in the eastern region of the Indian Ocean.
That said, other models taking the time of the spacecraft's re-entry into account have estimated it may also fall somewhere in the Northeast African nation of Sudan.
That said, with scientists expecting to predict where the rocket will land within a few hours of it hitting the ground, in the very slim chance that if it hits a populated area, there's the possibility that locals will be able to evacuate to safety. Also, considering the planet is mostly comprised of oceans and other bodies of water, an aquatic landing seems more probable than, say, an entire rocket crashing down on New York City, a sentiment echoed by Lloyd Austin, the US Defense Secretary. "We're hopeful that it will land in a place where it won't harm anyone," Austin told the BBC. "Hopefully in the ocean, or someplace like that."
So folks, let's hope the rocket falls somewhere far away from large populous areas -- and if not, well, it was nice knowing ya'll.