Space lab burns up - mostly - over South Pacific, China says

The lab was placed in orbit in September 2011 and had been slated for a controlled re-entry but it ceased functioning in March 2016 and space enthusiasts have been bracing for its fiery return

The agency said: "Through monitoring and analysis by Beijing Aerospace Control Centre and related agencies, Tiangong 1 re-entered the atmosphere at about 8.15am on April 2 Beijing time (1.15am GMT)".

Below are some questions and answers about the station, its re-entry and the past and future of China's ambitious space program.

A defunct, uncontrolled Chinese space laboratory disintegrated under intense heat as it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere on Monday and its debris caused "no harm" as it plunged to a watery grave in the South Pacific, Chinese officials said.

China also plans to put a man on the moon and send a rover to Mars.

"In 60 years of space exploration, only one person - an American woman named Lottie Williams - is known to have been struck by falling space junk, says Ailor, 'and it was just like a piece of fabric material that kind of brushed her on the shoulder'".

The Chinese government launched Tiangong-1 on September 29, 2011, as its first prototype space station, with the aim of demonstrating docking capabilities and carrying out orbit experiments in line with China's space programme aiming to launch a permanent Chinese space station by 2020.

The remnants of Tiangong-1 appeared to have landed about 100 km northwest of Tahiti, said Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist at Australian National University.

"The high speeds of returning satellites mean they can travel thousands of kilometres during that time window, and that makes it very hard to predict a precise location of reentry", said Holger Krag, head of the ESA's Space Debris Office, in comments posted on the agency's website.

Tiangong 1 is expected to come to Earth somewhere between 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south, a range covering most of the United States, China, Africa, southern Europe, Australia and South America.

The demise of Tiangong-1 has been long anticipated. A third astronaut slept in the Shenzhou spaceships that docked with the station, which also contained facilities for personal hygiene and food preparation.

Tiangong-1 - or "Heavenly Palace" - was placed in orbit in September 2011, an important step in China's efforts towards building its own space station.

China's space program has made rapid progress since it launched its first crewed mission in 2003 - becoming only the third country after Russian Federation and the do so - including placing a rover on Mars and conducting a spacewalk. The latter mission included China's first female astronaut, Liu Yang. A second space lab, Tiangong-2, was launched in 2016.

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

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