Zone of Impact for Chinese Space Station Still Includes Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  When Tiangong-1 Space Station blasted off seven years ago, Science Center of Iowa Director of Marketing and PR Emilee Richardson says it was a major Chinese accomplishment.

"There have been two missions of Chinese crews that have gone up to the space station, and it was launched in 2011."

What goes up, must come down, though, and unfortunately in this case nobody can steer it from harm's way.

Richardson said, "Since 2016, China has actually lost contact with it, so they are no longer able to control the trajectory of the space station."

Drake University Observatory lecturer Herb Schwartz says experts have nailed down this weekend as the expected time for the nine-ton station's crash landing.

"Right now, the best estimate we have is somewhere late in the day on April 1st. April Fool's Day," he said with a smile.

Determining a location is more difficult and could be anywhere from South Dakota to New Zealand.

Richardson said, "That whole chunk of the middle of the globe is still in the potential impact zone."

Schwartz added, "As far as the latitude of the earth is concerned, it happens to coincide with Des Moines, Iowa."

Tiangong-1 is the size of a school bus. While the thought of something that large falling from the sky can be scary, most of the space station won't reach the earth.

"They figure somewhere between 400-500 pounds of spacecraft may actually make it to the surface," said Schwartz.

All jokes aside, on April 1st, Iowans should look up.

"As it burns through the atmosphere, you'll literally see streaks of fire."

It's an opportunity sky gazing experts like Richardson say you do not want to miss.

"I'm actually hoping I get to see it. That would be really cool, to be able to see that space craft coming in and see those fireballs in the sky."

Astronomers believe there is a one in one trillion chance of any human being struck by space debris.