The Chinese Long March 5B rocket which was aimlessly earthbound causing fears as to where it might fall have disintegrated over the Indian Ocean on Sunday, it was reported.
The spacecraft had been launched into orbit on April 29 control had been lost, sparking concerns about possible damage and casualties upon entering the Earth's atmosphere, despite the slim odds. The segment’s descent matched predictions by some experts that any debris would have splashed down into the ocean, given that 70 percent of the planet is covered by water.
“After monitoring and analysis, at 10:24 (0224 GMT) on May 9, 2021, the last-stage wreckage of the Long March 5B Yao-2 launch vehicle has reentered the atmosphere,” the China Manned Space Engineering Office said in a statement, providing coordinates for a point in the Indian Ocean near the Maldives.
It added that most of the segment disintegrated and was destroyed during re-entry.
Monitoring service Space-Track, which uses US military data, also confirmed the re-entry. “Everyone else following the #LongMarch5B re-entry can relax. The rocket is down,” it tweeted.
American and European space authorities were among those tracking its orbits and trying to determine when and where it may come down. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had said the US military had no plans to shoot it down, but suggested that China had been negligent in letting it fall out of orbit.
Last year, debris from another Long March rocket fell on villages in Ivory Coast, causing structural damage but no injuries or deaths.
“An ocean reentry was always statistically the most likely,” Harvard-based astronomer Jonathan McDowell tweeted. “It appears China won its gamble (unless we get news of debris in the Maldives). But it was still reckless.” McDowell had said earlier that China should redesign the Long March-5B to avoid such scenarios.