This past Saturday, Bill Nelson, Administrator for NASA, fired criticisms at Beijing as a Chinese rocket careened back to Earth, making splashdown in the Indian Ocean.
“Spacefaring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations,” Nelson admonished in a statement. “It is clear that China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris.”
“It is critical that China and all spacefaring nations and commercial entities act responsibly and transparently in space to ensure the safety, stability, security, and long-term sustainability of outer space activities,” Nelson went on to add.
The debris that came crashing down from space were the littered remnants of China’s Long March 5B rocket. As reported by The New York Times:
“The piece that will be dropping out of the sky somewhere is the core booster stage of the Long March 5B, which was designed to lift the big, heavy pieces of the space station. For most rockets, the lower stages usually drop back to Earth immediately after launch. Upper stages that reach orbit usually fire the engine again after releasing their payloads, guiding them toward re-entry in an unoccupied area like the middle of an ocean.”
An astrophysicist at the Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Jonathan McDowell, stated that China is the only spacefaring nation that has disregarded safety and let its large rocket boosters just free-fall back from orbit with no attempts at all made to direct where this debris will land, according to the Times.
“An ocean reentry was always statistically the most likely. It appears China won its gamble (unless we get news of debris in the Maldives). But it was still reckless,” Mcdowell tweeted directly after the Chinese rocket debris slammed into the Indian Ocean.
in the many days leading up to the debris impact, experts stated that attempting to ascertain the location of where the space trash would careen back to earth to land at would be increasingly difficult, if not entirely impossible. While the likelihood of the rocket landing in a densely populated area was very small, there was still a non-zero chance. This highlights the mindset of a disregard for all safety that China took by not even attempting to set up any safety precautions with the remnants of its Long March 5B rocket.
This past week, The pentagon stated that it was attempting to track the falling debris from the rocket, but it was unable to give an accurate prediction of where it might land.