After NASA rebuked China over the uncontrolled re-entry of a 23-ton piece of space junk, China turned and slammed the U.S.
On Sunday, China’s Long March 5B rocket booster, which had been orbiting Earth for more than a week, returned to Earth. Much of the rocket burned up in the atmosphere, with the rest landing in the Indian Ocean west of the Maldives
The splashdown ended days of speculation and worry that the rocket, which was in uncontrolled re-entry could hit a populated area.
NASA Administrator Sen. Bill Nelson rebuked China in a statement posted on NASA’s website.
NASA Administrator @SenBillNelson on debris from the Chinese Long March 5B rocket: “Spacefaring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations.”
— NASA (@NASA) May 9, 2021
“Spacefaring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations,” he said. “It is clear that China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris.
“It is critical that China and all spacefaring nations and commercial entities act responsibly and transparently in space to ensure the safety, stability, security, and long-term sustainability of outer space activities,” he said.
China’s state-run Global Times fired back on the government’s behalf.
“Their hype and smears were in vain,” the newspaper, editorialized. It accused NASA and American scientists of “acting against their conscience” and being “anti-intellectual.”
“These people are jealous of China’s rapid progress in space technology,” the paper said, according to CNN. “Some of [them] even try to use the noises they made to obstruct and interfere with China’s future intensive launches for the construction of its space station.”
Those launches could pose the same safety issues as this one, according to one expert.
At least two of the 10 missions China has planned to put all pieces of its space station in orbit will use Long March 5B rockets.
“We can expect a similar situation for the next two launches or how many they will do with Long March 5B,” said Thomas Reiter, an astronaut and the interagency coordinator for the European Space Agency, according to Business Insider.
This would “be not very good,” Reiter said.
“Every time they will launch another module to the station, we would have to look up and try to find out where this object might enter,” Reiter said.
Reiter said China has not shared any plans for future launches with the international community.
“I just don’t know why they were driven to put this huge 33-meter, five-meter-diameter core stage into orbit. It’s very unusual,” he said.
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