China’s Space Lab Falls To Earth

China’s Space Lab Falls To Earth

China's defunct Tiangong-1 space lab mostly broke up on re-entering the Earth's atmosphere above the South Pacific, Chinese and US reports say.

It re-entered the atmosphere around 00:15 GMT on Monday, China's Manned Space Engineering Office said.

Tiangong-1 was launched in 2011 to carry out docking and orbit experiments, according to CNN and the BBC.

It was part of China's efforts to build a manned space station by 2022, but stopped working in March 2016.

"It was a fiery end to what was once one of China's highest-profile space projects," a CNN report says.

The space lab's demise, though ultimately uneventful, captured public attention in recent weeks, as scientists around the world tracked its uncontrolled descent.

"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.

Leroy Chiao, a former US astronaut who flew on four space missions, told CNN he would be "surprised if any major pieces survived the re-entry, as the Tiangong-1 was not that big of a spacecraft as they go, and it did not have a heat shield."

Anything that did make it through the atmosphere "will be at the bottom of the ocean by now," he added.

McDowell said there was unlikely to be any amateur images of the vessel's re-entry, given it was daytime in the Pacific when it crashed to Earth. Scientists had earlier said it might be possible to see the spacecraft burn up in a "series of fireballs streaking across the sky."