By Gurman Sidhu
On April 29, 2021, China launched its Long March 5B rocket into low Earth orbit from Wenchang, China. This rocket launch was part of China’s mission to build its Tianhe space station. Unfortunately, part of the rocket, a booster, broke off and returned to earth without China having any control over it. This weekend, this rocket part landed in the Indian Ocean, just west of the Maldives.
For 10 days, the whole world predicted where the Chinese rocket would land. Many feared the rocket would crash into a populated area. It was impossible to predict where the rocket would land due to its speed and the Earth’s atmosphere dragging it downward. However, it was very likely that it would land in the ocean since the ocean covers around 71% of the earth’s surface.
This event kept many scientists and space agencies on their toes for more than a week and sparked a conversation about the controversial topic of uncontrolled debris floating in space. Many pointed out that this is not the first time that China has had uncontrolled space junk heading towards Earth. Last year, another Long March 5B rocket part also landed on Earth unchecked by China’s space agency. The rocket landed in the Atlantic Ocean near the west coast of Africa, but some of its debris hit the Ivory Coast mainland, and no one was injured, but several buildings were damaged.
Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard University, said: “The bad thing is that this is really negligent on China’s part. Things over ten tons, we don’t deliberately let them fall from the sky unchecked.
The Chinese rocket that crashed to earth on Sunday weighed 18 tons. This raises questions about countries like China and whether or not they are safe when launching rockets into space. Should the Chinese space agency be held responsible for this event? Will other countries punish China for the failure of their rockets which could have caused much worse damage than it did?
Speaking at a White House press conference, press secretary Jen Psaki said, “The United States is committed to addressing the risks of growing congestion from space debris and growing activity in the world. space and we want to work with the international community to promote leadership and responsible space. behaviours.”
A reporter then asked PSAKI, what would the United States do if China continued its reckless behavior by sending rockets into orbit. PSAki replied, “I think we would, of course, refer to advice and guidance from US Space Command and the Department of Defense and others, but we’re not at that stage. We’re definitely tracking its location via US Space Command, and hopefully that’s not the outcome we’re working on.
In a statement posted on the NASA website on Sunday, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said, “Space nations must minimize the risk to people and property on Earth from space object re-entries and maximize transparency regarding these operations”.
For more than a week, China kept the world waiting to see where its out-of-control rocket booster would crash. China’s actions have struck fear among people and made them wonder if the rocket will crash to earth and possibly injure people. Many are beginning to recognize and discuss the Chinese space program’s patterns of reckless behavior.
This event raised fears of increased hatred and racism against Asian Americans for the Chinese government’s mismanagement of the rocket. They have faced an upsurge in racism and hate crimes since COVID-19 emerged from China.
Gurman Sidhu is a first-year neurobiology, physiology, and behavior student at UC Davis in Union City, California.