THE out-of-control Chinese space station has crashed into the Pacific and was "mostly" destroyed on re-entry, officials confirmed. Two years later, Tiangong-1 received the manned Shenzou 10 in June 2013, the year Tiangong-1's mission was set to expire.
"The @SpaceTrackOrg TIP window is down to + - 3 hours, during which time Tiangong-1 makes 4 orbits of the Earth".
It could strike anywhere in the world from 43 degrees north latitude to 43 degrees south latitude - this includes North Carolina. That places much of North and South America, Africa, southern Asia and Australia in its cross-hairs.
"It's been tumbling and spinning for a while, which means that when it really starts to come down it's less predictable about what happens to it", Tucker said.
How big is it - and will it hit me?
Tiangong-1 is roughly the size of a school bus, weighing in at 8.5 tons.
Chinese space station Tiangong-1 to fall to Earth within next few days
The lab "re-entered the atmosphere because it ran out of fuel, not because it's out of control", according to an expert interviewed by the nationalist tabloid the Global Times.
When it comes down, the craft is expected partly to burn up, with what remains breaking up into fragments covering perhaps thousands of square kilometres. Beijing said on Friday that it is unlikely any large pieces will reach the ground.
Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist at Australian National University, said Tiangong 1's re-entry was "mostly successful" and that it would have been better if the space station had not been spinning toward Earth.
NBC News explains only one person named Lottie Williams of Tulsa, Oklahoma, is known to be hit by space debris falling to Earth.
While it is not uncommon for debris such as satellites or spent rocket stages to fall to Earth, large vessels capable of supporting human life are rarer. The agency said in a blog post that 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.
It will take a lot of luck to catch a glimpse of the Heavenly Palace's final moments. "It will be visible to the naked eye, even in daylight, and look like a slow-moving shooting star that splits into a few more shooting stars".
"From that altitude, you still have a fallout zone of 1,000km which might stretch over several countries", Krag said.