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Michigan prepares for the unlikely event of destroying space debris this weekend



Michigan Emergency Center will be activated on Thursday in anticipation of the expected crash landing of a Chinese space station over the weekend.

It is highly unlikely that parts of the space station that survive re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere will land Michigan. But the Michigan state police are preparing for the case.

"If we do not prepare, we're already preparing to fail, and that's unacceptable, we have to have things," Capt. Chris Kelenske, Deputy Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

The European Space Agency predicts that Tiangong 1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere between Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon. China's space agency says the window could be extended by next Wednesday.

About half of the earth's surface is on the way of the erring space station. But the authorities should be better able to predict where their debris will land, if at all, a few hours before the impact.

Tiangong 1

was launched in 2011 and was China's first space station. The name means "Heavenly Palace". It was last used in 2013. The China Space Agency lost control of the space station in 2016.

Experts say that the spacecraft poses little risk to people and soil, as most of the 8-ton vehicle is expected to burn up on re-entry.

Debris from falling satellites and other man-made space debris has been falling back to earth for decades. In 1979, NASA's 77-ton Skylab crashed through the atmosphere, spreading wreckage near Perth, Australia.

It is known that only one person was hit by falling space debris. Lottie Williams was not injured in 1997 in Oklahoma by a falling piece of a Delta II rocket.

A bigger problem than a falling piece of space debris is exposure to hazardous materials, especially hydrazine – a highly toxic material used in rocket fuels.


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