China’s Rocket Debris Lands Near the Maldives, Draws Criticism from NASA


Debris from China’s out-of-control rocket landed in the Indian Ocean near the Maldives early Sunday morning, China’s space administration announced.

NASA has since criticized the country for “failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris,” said NASA Administrator Sen. Bill Nelson in a statement.

“Spacefaring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations.”

“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.”

Most of the debris from the Long March 5B rocket burned up upon reentering the atmosphere, but it is still unclear whether or not debris had landed on any of the Maldives’s 1,192 islands.

The rocket, which is about 108 feet tall and weighs nearly 40,000 pounds, launched the main module of China’s new space station, Tiangong, into orbit on April 29.

While the large booster stages of rockets normally drop back to Earth after launch, the 23-ton stage of the Long March 5B went all the way to orbit.

After the rocket ran out of fuel, it began hurtling back towards Earth uncontrolled.

The Chinese space administration announced that what was left of the rocket entered Earth’s atmosphere somewhere above the Mediterranean before soaring over the Middle East and into the Indian Ocean near the Maldives.

It was impossible to predict when or where the debris would land. The European Space Agency predicted a “risk zone” which included virtually all of the Americas south of New York, all of Africa and Australia, parts of Southeast Asia and Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece.

The Maldives did not have any immediate comment after China announced the location of the debris’ impact with Earth.

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