Defunct Chinese space station Tiangong 1 hurtling toward Earth

Chinese authorities have said the roughly eight-tonne Tiangong-1 is unlikely to cause any damage when it comes down and that its fiery disintegration will offer a “splendid” show akin to a meteor shower

But the remote location likely deprived stargazers of the spectacle.

"It did exactly what it was expected to do; the predictions, at least the past 24 hours' ones, were spot on; and as expected it fell somewhere empty and did no damage", said Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Scientists had earlier said it might be possible to see the spacecraft burn up in a "series of fireballs streaking across the sky".

The difficulties seemed to wrong-foot Chinese space scientists - just moments before announcing the craft would come down over the Pacific, they said it would make its re-entry over Sao Paulo, and head towards the Atlantic Ocean.

The experimental space laboratory re-entered around 8:15 a.m. Beijing time, the China Manned Space Engineering Office said.

It said in a statement it had confirmed re-entry in coordination with counterparts in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Britain. The space station was all burned up after re-entry into the atmosphere.

The European Space Agency forecast that the station, whose name translates as "Heavenly Palace", will re-enter sometime between Sunday night and early Monday GMT.

Debris from satellites, space launches and the International Space Station enters the atmosphere every few months, but only one person is known to have been hit by any of it: American woman Lottie Williams, who was struck but not injured by a falling piece of a U.S. Delta II rocket while exercising in an Oklahoma park in 1997.

During its brief lifespan, it hosted Chinese astronauts on several occasions as they performed experiments and even taught a class that was broadcast into schools across the country. Space enthusiasts have been bracing for its return ever since.

"Tiangong-1 will go down in China's space history".

The first U.S. space station, the 74-ton Skylab, fell to Earth in an uncontrolled reentry in 1979.

Chinese media have downplayed comments by the ESA and others that the country's engineers have lost control of the lab, with reports saying that the idea it is "out of control" is an invention of foreign media.

Tiangong-1 was decommissioned by the China in 2016 after serving for five years as a space lab for visiting astronauts.

A mission to land another rover on Mars and bring back samples is set to launch in 2020, while China also plans to become the first country to soft-land a probe on the far side of the moon.



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