MYSTERY WIRE (AP) — US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says the military has no plans to shoot down debris from a Chinese rocket that is barreling towards Earth.
The largest section of the rocket that launched the main module of China’s first permanent space station into orbit is expected to plunge back to Earth as early as Saturday at an unknown location.
Usually, discarded core, or first-stage, rockets reenter soon after liftoff, normally over water, and don’t go into orbit like this one did.
China’s space agency has yet to say whether the core stage of the huge Long March 5B rocket is being controlled or will make an out-of-control descent.
Last May, another Chinese rocket fell uncontrolled into the Atlantic Ocean off West Africa.
Basic details about the rocket stage and its trajectory are unknown because the Chinese government has yet to comment publicly on the reentry.
Phone calls to the China National Space Administration weren’t answered on Wednesday, a holiday.
The nonprofit Aerospace Corp. expects the debris to hit the Pacific near the Equator after passing over eastern U.S. cities.
Its orbit covers a swath of the planet from New Zealand to Newfoundland.
Austin also spoke about the vaccination program in the military and why he will not make it mandatory for all forces to take it.