Watch: Debris From Uncontrolled Chinese Rocket Re-Entry Falls Into Sea Near Philippines

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by Tyler Durden
Sunday, Jul 31, 2022 - 01:55 PM

Stunning videos of a massive Chinese rocket that tumbled uncontrollably back to Earth were posted on social media late Saturday. 

On July 24, China's Long March 5B rocket delivered the Wentian laboratory module to the new space station. The rocket's 23-ton main stage had since been in an uncontrolled descent and reentered the Earth's atmosphere over the Indian Ocean at around 2445 ET, the U.S. Space Command tweeted.

"No other country leaves these 20-ton things in orbit to reenter in an uncontrolled way," Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told CNN before the rocket burned up in the atmosphere. 

China's handling of the botched re-entry drew criticism from NASA head Bill Nelson. 

"The People's Republic of China did not share specific trajectory information as their Long March 5B rocket fell back to Earth. All spacefaring nations should follow established best practices, and do their part to share this type of information in advance to allow," Nelson tweeted. 

This is the third Long March 5B launch (we noted the other two here) where the core rocket has tumbled uncontrollably back to Earth. The first was in May 2020, when a Long March 5B deorbited and crashed into an African village. 

The second was one year later, in May 2021, when the rocket splashed down in the Indian Ocean. 

And now, rocket debris plunged into the Sulu Sea near the Philippines, according to Chinese spaceflight program via a notice on Chinese social media platform Weibo.

Here's video of the rocket's re-entry. 

"What we really want to know is did any pieces actually end up sitting on the ground," McDowell said. "That may take a little while longer for the reports to filter back."

One would think the Chinese would perfect an orderly re-entry of the rocket for the third time, but that doesn't appear to be the case. Another Long March is scheduled for launch in a few months. So the world will go through another guessing game about where the rocket will land.