Now, watch out for trouble from the sky

First, it was China’s Wuhan that was the source of global grief. Now, it’s China’s Wenchang that’s the source of global anxiety. The massive Long March 5B rocket – that launched China’s first module for its Tianhe space station on April 29 from the southern Chinese city – is ‘out of control’ and is expected to crash down to Earth. As if we didn’t have enough on our plate, we shall know if parts of the rocket fall on our heads or not on May 10, plus-minus two days.

The last time we worried about the sky falling on our heads like Chief Vitalstatistix in that village in Gaul was when Nasa’s space station Skylab spiralled out of Earth’s orbit in the summer of 1979 and turned into a 77-ton space cannonball.

Nasa remotely fired booster rockets that, it hoped, would plunge it in the Indian Ocean. With touchdown close to our home, and not that of any American, India went into Armageddon panic – while many Americans hosted ‘Skylab parties’. Eventually, most of the chunk fell into the ocean on July 11, 1979 – the rest in almost unpopulated western Australia. No one was hurt. This time, where will Long March 5B fall?

Too early to say. Scientists believe in the water. After all, 71% of the planet has the stuff. But with no one sure yet, do put on a helmet or hard hat when you start searching the sky. And don’t forget to wear your Covid mask.

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