Debris from ‘uncontrolled’ 23-ton Chinese rocket falls over Indian Ocean

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Debris from a massive Chinese rocket made its uncontrolled return to Earth on Saturday over the Indian Ocean, according to the US Space Command.

The debris was spotted by US Space Command at 12:45 pm. Aerospace experts had been tracking the debris for days because it was unclear when — and where — it would land.

The Chinese Manned Space Agency insisted most of the debris had burned up on re-entry over the Sulu Sea, between the island of Borneo and the Philippines, according to the New York Times, which cited updates on the social networking site Weibo.

The debris was part of a 23-ton, 10-story rocket called Long March 5B, which China jettisoned into orbit on July 24 to deliver a lab module to its Tiangong space station.

Two previous launches of the Long March 5B rocket had uncontrolled reentries, with debris landing near the west coast of Africa in 2020 and in the Indian Ocean in 2021.

China rocket
China insists most of the debris burned up on reentry.
China rocket
The debris was part of a 10-story rocket called Long March 5B.
Getty Images

NASA administrator Bill Nelson on Saturday ripped China for not sharing “specific trajectory information,” according to ABC News.

“All spacefaring nations should follow established best practices, and do their part to share this type of information in advance to allow reliable predictions of potential debris impact risk, especially for heavy-lift vehicles, like the Long March 5B, which carry a significant risk of loss of life and property,” he said in a statement.

“Doing so is critical to the responsible use of space and to ensure the safety of people here on Earth.”

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