Out-Of-Control Rocket Tumbling To Earth Probably Won’t Kill You, Reassure Experts

by : Emily Brown on : 08 May 2021 17:29
Out-Of-Control Rocket Tumbling To Earth Probably Won't Kill You, Say AstronomersPA Images/Pixabay

Astronomers and space experts have said that Earth’s residents shouldn’t have to worry too much about the rocket set plunge through the atmosphere this weekend. 

At some point today, May 8, or tomorrow, May 9, a 100-foot-long Chinese rocket will come tumbling down towards our home planet. While a fairly large portion of the machinery will be obliterated as it falls, it’s possible there will be some debris that survives and strikes the Earth.


It’s currently unclear exactly when or where the debris might land, which, naturally, is a bit concerning. After all, we’ve had enough to deal with in the past few months without having worry about adding ‘might get squished by rocket’ to the list.

China's Long March 5B rocket (PA Images)PA Images

Thankfully, however, astronomer Jonathan McDowell,of the Harvard-Smithsonian Institute for Astrophysics, is here to reassure us that the chances of actually being struck by falling debris are pretty unlikely.

McDowell has been sharing updates about the rocket’s situation on Twitter, so when another user asked if we were ‘all about to die’, he responded, ‘If you are standing in the wrong square meter of Earth of the 250 trillion square meters that its debris might hit, then you are in trouble. Otherwise, relax.’


Obviously this doesn’t mean there’s absolutely zero chance of falling victim to the debris, but it’s worth keeping in mind that even if every single one of Earth’s 7.6 billion people took up their own square metre, there’d still be a few trillion square metres left over.

Let’s just hope the rocket manages to fall in one of those, rather than the ones that are already occupied.

Similarly, Dan Oltrogge, founder of the Space Safety Coalition and top policy expert at the Commercial Space Operations Center, told The Verge there’s ‘almost no risk’ as he pointed out, ‘Much of the earth is covered in water.’


He added, ‘The likelihood of any human being getting hit is quite low. It’s extremely low, let’s call it.’

The rocket originally launched on April 29, when China sent it into space to deliver the first module of the country’s new space station into orbit. Following the launch, the rocket’s core stage separated from the module and has been circling Earth ever since.

Its reentry through the atmosphere comes as it gradually loses altitude, with the Chinese owners unable to direct or control the falling material.


However, US Space Command and numerous other companies have announced they are tracking the rocket stage, suggesting we’ll continue to learn information about its expected landing site as it gets closer to Earth.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: News, Astronomy, China, Now, Space


Jonathan McDowell/Twitter and 1 other
  1. Jonathan McDowell/Twitter


  2. The Verge

    Chinese rocket falling to Earth this weekend poses ‘extremely low’ risk to people