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NASA criticizes China for disregarding safety standards after uncontrolled rocket reentry

China didn't share trajectory data; video of apparent reentry shared on social media
Senate NASA
Posted at 3:35 PM, Aug 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-01 16:35:49-04

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson publicly criticized the Chinese government after it was accused of disregarding safety standards by not sharing trajectory data on the reentry of its Long March 5B heavy-lift rocket, which shot through Earth's atmosphere on Saturday.

Nelson wrote on Twitter that China didn't share "specific trajectory information" and said, "All spacefaring nations should follow established best practices, and do their part to share this type of information in advance."

He wrote that heavy-lift vehicles like China's Long March 5B rocket carry "a significant risk of loss of life and property" if reentry protocols are not heeded. Nelson said that sharing information like trajectory data is "critical to the responsible use of space and to ensure the safety of people here on Earth."

As Newsweek reported, U.S. Space Command confirmed the reentry of China's heavy-lift vehicle over the Indian Ocean at around 12:45 p.m. ET on Saturday. It directed questions about the technical aspects of the reentry to China. Those questions included the potential dispersal of debris and the location of impact.

China's Manned Space Agency wrote in a post to the Chinese social media platform Weibo that "most" of the debris was incinerated on reentry to Earth over the Sulu Sea, between the Philippines and Borneo, according to Newsweek.

Video posted to social media shows what appears to be debris from the rocket lighting up the night sky with people in the background heard reacting to the rare sighting. One user on Twitter wrote that they believed it was a large meteor. Multiple news outlets shared the images believed to be the rocket reentering Earth's atmosphere.