China’s Long March 5B rocket that was used to lift China’s first module towards its own space station orbited earth in an uncontrolled flight before reentering earth over the Arabian Peninsula and crashing into the Indian Ocean just west of the Maldives, a small nation made up of atolls southwest of India. According to the China Manned Space Engineering Office, most of the rocket debris burned up during reentry as it was traveling at 17,500 mph. The small amount remaining hit the water but the exact location is not known.
China has received significant criticism over this failure because the rocket was not equipped with orbital maneuvering thrusters of its own so that the rocket could be controlled and brought back down to earth in a planned manner and in a designated location. Russian, U.S., India and European space agencies all have this ability and it is believed China could have but opted not to install it onto their rocket. “China has landed on the moon, has satellites in orbit around Mars, they certainly had the ability to make sure their rocket didn’t reach orbit and then crash this way,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in unrehearsed comments. “Spacefaring nations must minimize the risk to people and property on Earth of reentry of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations. China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris.”
According to the Chinese plan, the rocket was never suppose to reach orbit, but instead, shut down just before it reached orbit and then fall back to earth into the Pacific Ocean.