The rocket that blocked the air sector did crash on Earth

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Movement of panic in European airports at the end of last week. On Friday morning, no less than 300 flights were canceled by various airlines. All have one thing in common, they were going to cross part of northern Spain.

But that same morning, air traffic controllers spotted the remains of a Chinese rocket that had come to disintegrate in the atmosphere. The decision was made to close all airspace in the area. No one wanted to take any risks.

Chinese rockets sow panic each time they return to Earth

While Europe qualifies this return to Earth “uncontrolled“China has a whole side of the story. According to a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the threat of collision was very low, if not nil, and the Europeans were overzealous. He specified that this kind of maneuver (a rocket returning to the atmosphere) was ultimately very commonplace.

Launched on October 31, the Long March 5B rocket was used to put the last module of the Chinese space station Tiangjong into orbit. But as usual, China did not think about the return trajectory of its rocket, and it came to split the atmosphere with a chaotic trajectory.

Europe is worried, Beijing puts it into perspective

If, as Beijing specifies, no debris has ever flown over Spain, the risk was there and European airlines did not want to put themselves in danger. Eventually the rocket debris fell thousands of miles from the Pyrenees, in the Sulu Sea off the Philippines.

Despite recent warnings from ESA (the European Space Agency) and NASA, China is doing its own thing when it comes to rocket returns. This is already the fourth time in less than two years that debris has fallen to the surface.

On Monday, the authorities of the Philippines assured that the impact had done no damage, neither material nor human. China had targeted this area as a possible place of falling debris and had also alerted the authorities as well as fishing vessels.

The debris was found largely on the beaches of Busuanga, an island of 45,000 inhabitants in the heart of the archipelago. They are several meters long and weigh hundreds of pounds (see below).

long-march5b-debris

A piece of the rocket found on the coast of the island © Palawan news

The risk grows with each launch

But the CNSA (Chinese space agency) is not the only one to drop the remains of its rocket on Earth. While the space treaty calls for, where possible, calculating a return trajectory that allows the rocket to disintegrate, SpaceX has also made a few blunders in the past.

A few months ago an Australian farmer found pieces of Falcon 9 in his field. Here again the drama was avoided, but by dint of playing with the game, the worst could happen in the coming years. While China intends to launch a Long March 5B per month, it will have to take care of the return of the rocket to Earth if it does not want to kill one day or another.

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