Out of control Chinese Tiangong-1 space station hurtles towards Earth

Alexandra Richards

A Chinese space station containing “highly toxic” chemicals could crash into the Earth and hit a number of world cities, scientists predict.

The Tiangong-1 will renter the atmosphere between March 28 and April 5 and there is a chance that some of the debris from the space station could reach Earth.

Scientists at The Aerospace Corporation in California predict that there is a probability that debris will hit a narrow strip which includes cities such as New York, Barcelona, Beijing, Chicago, Istanbul, Rome and Toronto.

The space station was launched in June 2012 but lost control on March 21 2016. It is believed to contain the dangerous chemical hydrazine.

Hydrazine can cause nerve damage to humans who come into contact with it, but experts say it is highly unlikely that this would happen.

Scientists predict that the space station debris will land no further north than 42.7° N latitude or south of 42.7° S latitude.

Although it is possible that the debris will hit Earth, experts said that most of the debris will be burnt off as it re-enters the atmosphere.

But pieces as large as 2220 pounds could still rain down at exceptionally high speeds.

"There is a chance that a small amount of Tiangong-1 debris may survive reentry and impact the ground," reported the Aerospace Corporation earlier this month.

"Should this happen, any surviving debris would fall within a region that is a few hundred kilometers in size and centered along a point on the Earth that the station passes over."

But the organisation continued: "When considering the worst-case location… the probability that a specific person (i.e., you) will be struck by Tiangong-1 debris is about 1 million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot."

The space station was designed to fall back to Earth and land in the ocean, but since it has lost control there is no way to say where it will land.

The Aerospace Corporation said it may be possible to see Tianging-1 as it re-enters Earth's atmosphere but the organisation said it is impossible to predict the exact date when this would occur.