Editor in chief:
CLARA MOSCHINI

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Chinese space station landing on the Earth

Tiangong-1 will enter the Earth's atmosphere for Easter

The return to Earth of the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 is expected for Easter. Launched on September 29th 2011, the spacecraft is constantly monitored by public and private institutions all over the world, including the Italian Civil Defence Department, the Space Flight Dynamics Laboratory of the Isti Institute of the National Research Council of Pisa (ISTI-CNR) and the Space Geodesy Center of Matera (Italy). Also Sardinia Researches, Sardinian company Nurjana Technologies and the Department of electrical and electronic engineering of the University of Cagliari (DIEE) worked on a project in order to control and prevent by an optical telescope possible collisions between Tiangong-1 and some objects in orbit and on the Earth. As Giorgio Montisci (Sardininan University) explained: "DIEE's Electrical and Electronic Department of Cagliari University will deal with the development of Radar systems for monitoring debris. All the data will be correlated with the results provided by the optical telescopes in order to obtain a more specific orbits' estimation".

The CNR Institute of information science and technology "A. Faedo " published a detailed document for the population that is frightened by the uncontrolled return of the space station. Reached in November by the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft and occupied by crews transported by Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 in June 2012 and in June 2013,Tiangong-1 should have been used to carry out technological tests and then should have been de-orbited in the South Pacific Ocean Unpopulated Area (SPOUA), a deserted area of the South Pacific that is used as a "cemetery" for satellites. On March 16th 2016 the ground control center was no longer able to communicate with the station in order to carry out a guided return. After gradually losing altitude over the years, Tiangong-1 is going to land on the Earth, presumably in an area of the planet between 43 degrees South latitude and 43 degrees North latitude. As explained by the CNR, starting from 100 km of altitude the structure subjected to air friction will break up into several parts that could reach other places. The monitored area will consequently be the one between 44 degrees south latitude and 44 degrees north latitude, including also a part of Italy.

Considered by the experts an exceptional event, the uncontrolled return of satellites or stadiums over five tons would occur once or twice a year worldwide. As CNR technicians said taking the precautions designed to limit the mechanical and chemical risk and waiting for the station to arrive will be the only thing to do. In fact the actual risk  is very low.

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