Wisconsin in the tracks of Chinese Space Station hurtling toward Earth

Posted at 6:42 PM, Mar 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-24 14:48:48-04

China's abandoned space lab is expected to tumble back to Earth sometime in the next two weeks and southeastern Wisconsin is right in its tracks.

China's Tiangong 1 Space Lab is about the size of a city bus. While that might sound dangerous as it falls to Earth, Milwaukee Public Museum Planetarium Director Bob Bonadurer said there's no need to worry about being struck by its debris.

The space lab lifted off 7 years ago.

"To explore, to boldly go where no one has gone before," Bonadurer said.

After a malfunction in 2016, the Chinese government lost control of it. Scientists predict it will come hurtling back to Earth sometime between March 30 and April 4.

"Could it land here? Well, possibly, but remember the circumference of the Earth, it's 25,000 miles," Bonadurer said.

He said most of the space lab will break up and burn in our atmosphere.

"Some big chunks might survive, some might survive and hit the Earth," he said.

The scenario reminds Bonadurer of a similar incident that hits close to home. Back in the '60s, a small piece of Sputnik 4 crash-landed in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

"It was about the size of a big softball, but it was fairly small," he said.

According to Aerospace, the odds that any debris from China's space lab hits a person is about 1-million times larger than winning the Powerball lottery. Bonadurer said there's a much better chance of a beautiful view, given it comes down on a clear night.

"You're going to see a really cool shooting star if it comes over Wisconsin," he said.