Sometime within the next few months, the heavens will come crashing down.
Tiangong 1, which translates to “Heavenly Palace,” is China’s first space laboratory, launched in September 2011, serving as a prototype for a permanent space station that it aims to eventually build and launch. But six years after it first went into orbit, the 8½-ton laboratory is soon expected to meet a fiery and uncontrolled end, hurtling down to Earth and crashing somewhere — anywhere — on the planet.
In September 2016, Chinese officials confirmed that they had lost control of the space lab and that it would crash into Earth sometime in the latter half of 2017. In May, China told the United Nations that the lab would reenter Earth between October and April 2018.
Much of the space lab, which measures 34 feet in length, is expected to burn up during its reentry. But Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist from Harvard University, told the Guardian that pieces weighing up to 220 pounds could make it to the Earth’s surface.