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Defunct Chinese Space Lab Set to Re-enter Earth's Atmosphere

Defunct Chinese Space Lab Set to Re-enter Earth's Atmosphere

Leroy Chiao, a former U.S. astronaut who flew on four space missions, told CNN he would be "surprised if any major pieces survived the re-entry, as the Tiangong-1 was not that big of a spacecraft as they go, and it did not have a heat shield".

Tiangong-1 was part of China's endevour to build its own space station to counter the current Russia's worldwide space station Mir.

"Most parts were burned up in the re-entry process", it added.

The China Manned Space Engineering Office says on its website the most possible re-entry time is 8:49 a.m. Monday.

Jonathan McDowell from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics believes Tiangong is only the 50th most massive object to come back uncontrolled.

In September 2016, China launched its new space laboratory, the Tiangong-2, which hosted its first manned mission with two astronauts on board between October and November.

In its update Saturday the agency said calmer space weather was now expected as a high-speed stream of solar particles did not cause an increase in the density of the upper atmosphere, as previously expected.

The out-of-control Chinese space station that is set to crash into earth over the Easter weekend will put on a "splendid show" like a meteor shower, according to experts. It plans to send a manned mission to the moon in the future.

"It's normal for spacecraft to re-enter the atmosphere, yet Tiangong-1 received so much attention partly because some Western countries are trying to hype and sling mud at China's fast-growing aerospace industry", the tabloid Global Times said.

Chinese media has downplayed comments by the ESA and others that the country's engineers have lost control of the lab, with reports saying that the idea it is "out of control" is an invention of the foreign media. The exact timing of the space lab's return to Earth was fine-tuned over the following days.

The station was due to appear as early as midday Saturday but has slowed down due to changes in the weather conditions in space, according to the European Space Agency. It was to carry out docking and orbit experiments as part of China's ambitious space programme aimed at placing a permanent station by the early 2020s.

The disintegration of large spacecraft has not always been without tragedy.

Nasa's Columbia shuttle would also have to be classed as an uncontrolled re-entry. The flaming debris from the 80-tonne craft was caught streaking across the sky over the southern USA by local TV stations, with tens of thousands of the doomed shuttle's parts scattered over Texas and Louisiana.