Defunct Chinese space lab plunges into Ocean

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A non-operational Chinese space lab disintegrated under intense heat as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere and plunged to a watery grave in the South Pacific, Chinese officials said.

The Tiangong-1 "mostly" burnt up above the vast ocean's central region, China's Manned Space Engineering Office said. The report says that most of the space station burned up on re-entry somewhere over the middle of the South Pacific Ocean.

The spacecraft was in service for four and a half years, two and a half years longer than initially planned, making important contributions to China's manned space cause and paving the way for China to become the third country in the world to build a permanent space station around 2022.

The Chinese government lost contact with the space station, whose name translates to "Heavenly Palace", 2 years ago and it has been in a decaying orbit ever since.

U.S. Strategic Command's Joint Force Space Component Command confirmed the crash, using Space Surveillance Network sensors and their orbital analysis system.

Visitors sit beside a model of China's Tiangong-1 space station at the 8th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition on November 16, 2010, in Zhuhai in southern China's Guangdong Province.

The last space outpost to drop was Russia's 135-ton Mir station in 2001, which made a controlled landing with most parts breaking up in the atmosphere. After all, oceans cover 71% of Earth's surface, so, statistically, that'd be the safest place for something to end up.

While there was an uneasy level of confusion surrounding a free-falling bus-sized space station, Aerospace gave the odds of a chunk hitting a piece of the space station at 1-in-1-trillion.

The European Space Agency had described the probability of someone being hit by debris from Tiangong-1 as "10 million times smaller than the yearly chance of being hit by lightning". The single-module station measured some 34 feet (10.4 meters) long and had a diameter of approximately 11 feet (3.4 meters). Image acquired on the morning of 1 April 2018, during one of the craft's final orbits. Xinhua news agency says the window is between 8:11 a.m. and 9:33 a.m.

The station was a stepping stone for the Chinese space program, used to practice docking maneuvers in space - something essential for further space exploration, including the use of larger space stations in the future.

And finally, a rain of whatever remained sprinkled the South Pacific, northwest of Tahiti and fairly close to Samoa.