China’s first space station might be in freefall in space and on its way to crashing back down to Earth.

The Tiangong-1 satellite was launched in 2011, and should have come back down to Earth in the ocean in a controlled crash. But watchers have said that it now appears to have gone into freewill, with China losing control of it, and so it could crash down onto the Earth any time.

Like other lost satellites, it’s likely that the freefalling station would burn up on its way back into Earth and come back down as molten metal rather than with a big crash. But people have warned that it could still be a “real bad day” if the rocket fell back down to Earth, “but odds are it will land in the ocean or in an unpopulated area”.

The huge size of the satellite mean that parts of it could still make their way through the searing heat of entry back into the atmosphere, and so cause problems when they arrive back on Earth.

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