On Wednesday, the Pentagon stated that it does not know where a Chinese rocket will crash, three days before it is expected to enter Earth.
“It’s too soon to know exactly where it’s going to come down,” Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said of the huge Long March 5B rocket, which launched China’s first permanent space station into orbit. U.S. Space Command assesses “almost the entire body of the rocket” remains intact, Kirby said, and that it will return to Earth “somewhere around the 8th of May.’
“It’s also too soon to explore options about what, if anything, can be done about this until we have a better sense of where it’s coming down,” Kirby said, confirming a prior statement from Space Command that it would only have a few hours’ notice once it determines the rocket’s return trajectory. “I don’t want to hypothesize or speculate about possible actions the department might or might not take here. We’re tracking it, we’re following it as closely as we can. It’s just a little too soon to know where it’s going to go or what, if anything, can be done about that.”
China through its state media on Wednesday blasted “Western hype of the ‘China threat’ in space technology advancement,” mentioned that experts believe it is “completely normal” for rocket debris to fall back down to Earth and that it “will fall in international waters.” This statement offers no official assessment of any incoming danger.
The thought of falling space debris has raised concerns and warning bells among many analysts.
“This is not unique. Things come down. What’s unique about this is it’s so large, and the Chinese did nothing to try to control its reentry or mitigate risk,” Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, tells U.S. News. “This is evidence that they are a junior space power that hasn’t really figured out how to operate safely and responsibly.”