Deli rakete ob vzletu v vesolje odpadejo. Vir: Nasa/MSFC
Deli rakete ob vzletu v vesolje odpadejo. Vir: Nasa/MSFC

The debris of a rocket fell to Earth on Sunday

Something went wrong with the take-off of a Chinese rocket on April 29th this year.

Part of the rocket fell off too quickly on take-off and began to fall to Earth.

When a rocket takes off into space, it usually sheds some of its parts during its flight through the atmosphere. Because of the lower mass, it uses less fuel when accelerating.

Parts that fall off at the beginning usually fall to Earth in a certain controlled area where they do not pose a danger.

Those that fall high enough, however, remain in the orbit and do not fall to Earth.

Due to an error, part of the Chinese rocket remained too close to Earth and began to fall back. This part weighed as much as 21 tons and flew at a speed of about 28 thousand kilometres per hour.

Long March 5 ali Dolgi Pohod 5 je tip rakete, s katerim so 29. 4. poleteli v vesolje. Vir: 篁竹水声 /Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 4.0
Long March 5 ali Dolgi Pohod 5 je tip rakete, s katerim so 29. 4. poleteli v vesolje. Foto: 篁竹水声 /Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 4.0

At such a high speed, it was difficult for researchers to predict the exact location of the fall back to Earth.

»We predicted that the fall would happen somewhere around the equator, at most to the north to Rome or to the southern coast of Montenegro,« says Prof. Dr. Tomaž Zwitter from the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics.

The debris of the rocket fell into the Indian Ocean west of the Maldives on Sunday, May 9th, at 3.24 pm our local time.

Uncontrolled falls of massive bodies do not happen often.

»According to the rules, before entering the atmosphere the body must be broken into several smaller pieces with an explosive charge, which then all burn without difficulty and therefore nothing falls to the ground,« says Zwitter.

Even before the fall of the debris of the rocket, Tomaž Zwitter believed that they did not pose a major danger.

»Walking on the sidewalk along the road is much more dangerous, as many accidents happen around the world every day. So no worries and just bravely go on!«

Points to Consider

  1. What is gravity?
  2. Why do bodies burn when they fall to Earth?
  3. Which country was the first to launch a rocket into space?


The original version of this article was published on May 10th.

English translation courtesy of JL FlannerTotal Slovenia News, an English language website with news from and about Slovenia.


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