Space Command, part of the Department of Defense, says it is "tracking the location of the Chinese Long March 5B (rocket) in space, but its exact entry point into the Earth's atmosphere can not be pinpointed until within hours of its re-entry".
"U.S. Space Command is aware of and tracking the location of the Chinese Long March 5B in space, but its exact entry point into the Earth's atmosphere can not be pinpointed until within hours of its reentry, which is expected around May 8", a statement from the U.S. Space Command read earlier this week. China plans 10 more launches to carry additional parts of the space station into orbit.
Although the risk to people on land isn't zero, Oltrogge told TheVerge, "it's a whole lot less" if pieces of the rocket are aiming for a large body of water.
The Long March 5B rocket was launched last week carrying a module of China's first permanent space station into orbit.
On Friday, the Chinese government reassured the world that the rocket debris will mostly burn up on reentry, posing little threat to people and property on the ground.
"At the imaging time, the rocket stage was at about 700 km (435 miles) from our telescope, while the Sun was just a few degrees below the horizon, so the sky was incredibly bright: these conditions made the imaging quite extreme, but our robotic telescope succeeded in capturing this huge debris", Gianluca Masi, an astronomer with the Virtual Telescope Project, explained in a post.
He suggested that the Chinese were negligent in letting the rocket body fall out of orbit.
No one knows for sure.
"Speaking in Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said China was closely following the rocket's reentry into the atmosphere, Reuters reported". McDowell told CNN that pinpointing where debris could be headed is nearly impossible because of the speed the rocket is traveling - even slight changes in circumstance drastically change the trajectory.
How big is the Chinese rocket that's falling to Earth?
"It's nearly the body of the rocket, as I understand it, nearly intact, coming down", Kirby said. The parts that don't burn up completely will remain and fall to Earth.
The Global Times, a tabloid affiliated with the ruling Chinese Communist Party, quoted an analyst as saying "only a very small portion" may fall to the ground, which will "potentially land on areas away from human activities or in the ocean".
"Bottom Line = Don't panic", the Space Track website, through which the 18th Space Control Squadron is providing updates on the rocket's location, tweeted. In 2019, the space agency controlled the demolition of its second station, Tiangong-2, in the atmosphere.