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Tiangong-1 Space Station has finally landed on Earth and, while most of it has burnt up during re-entry, a tiny portion has survived and landed near Tahiti. The whole world had been maintaining a close watch on its path and the suspense ended when it finally re-entered the Earth's atmosphere and crashed north-west of Tahiti.

New Zealand reports that about 10 percent of the 8.5-tonne space station might have survived and it could consist of heavier components like its power plants. The Chinese space office had indicated that the debris could crash in the South Atlantic near the cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. However, most of it burned up and the remnants landed in the South Pacific.

The US authorities have also confirmed this.

China’s space station Tiangong-1

China had high hopes for its space station Tiangong-1. It was intended to set the pace of its space programs and was launched in 2011. It was supposed to conduct experiments in docking and orbiting with the ultimate goal of having a permanent station in orbit by 2023. The original mission was to decommission it in 2013 but it was extended and a planned re-entry was scheduled for 2017. However, things did not work out according to plan and the space station went out of control.

During its lifetime, it had hosted two crewed missions and was also used as a test platform to carry out space-related experiments. Its last crew left in 2013 and the station lost contact with the ground in 2016. Its bits and pieces have finally ended up in Tahiti as space debris.

The reaction of China

The loss of Tiangong-1 will affect the preparedness of China to remain in the space race, and it should take the failure of its space station as a hurdle that it will have to cross in its quest for excellence. However, the worldwide media attention on the defunct space lab and its uncontrolled descent through the Earth’s atmosphere and landing in Tahiti has not gone down well with the Chinese.

One of the Chinese tabloids has remarked that such re-entry is not new and the reason for such hype, in its opinion, is “envy” at the space industry in China which is growing steadily.

Space adds that China already has a successor, Tiangong-2, which was launched to Earth's orbit in September 2016. It hosted three visiting astronauts within a month of launch. In addition, a robotic vessel, Tianzhou-1, docked with this space station to undertake a number of automated docking and refueling operations. This was done during a six-month period from April 2017 to September 2017. These are the stepping stones for China to build a permanent space station which could begin next year with the first manned mission in 2022.