A massive out-of-control rocket launched by China on April 29 continues to tumble towards Earth at 17,300 mph, and the U.S. military believes it could re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere within 18 hours of 7:13 pm ET tomorrow night; from there, it could take another hour or two for the 23-ton rocket, or what’s left of it, to reach the Earth’s surface. Experts still aren’t certain where it will go and likely won’t until an hour or two prior to impact. China, the White House, and the Pentagon have all commented on the situation.
Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for China and the Deputy Director of the Foreign Ministry Information Department, said “As a matter of principle, I would like to reiterate that China is always committed to the peaceful use of outer space and stands for international cooperation in this regard. China is ready to work with all relevant parties to make join efforts for the peaceful use of outer space and safeguarding space security.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters yesterday that the U.S. doesn’t “have a plan to shoot the rocket down”, adding that they’re hopeful that the rocket will “land in a place where it won’t harm anyone.”
“The United States is committed to addressing the risks of growing congestion due to space debris and growing activity in space and we want to work with the international community to promote leadership and responsible space behaviors,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a news briefing on Wednesday.
Psaki said that, if damage occurs from the Long March 5B debris, the White House will consult with U.S. Space Command and the Department of Defense for advice. But she didn’t elaborate on what would happen next.
“At this point, we are certainly tracking its location through U.S. Space Command,” Psaki said. “Hopefully, that’s not the outcome that we are working through.”
In the 1970s, the United Nations negotiated an agreement among member nations that makes a launching State liable to pay compensation for damage caused by its space objects on the surface of the Earth or to aircraft; it also makes the launching State liable for damage due to its faults in space.