A Chinese space station the size of a school bus is expected to fall to Earth, and two-thirds of the planet are in the potential impact zone.
The Tiangong-1, Chinese space station was initially launched in September 2011. An official Chinese statement declared that Tiangong-1 terminated its data service on March 21, 2016. Since the Chinese government has lost control of the station, it's hard to predict where and when it will fall.
The European Space Agency predicts the space station will fall back to Earth between March 30 and April 6, while research organization Aerospace predicts a re-entry on April 1, give or take four days.
Aerospace says it is much easier to predict a re-entry time than a location. This explains the wide scope of possible re-entry zones, which both Aerospace and other organizations predict will be between 43 degrees North and 43 degrees South latitudes.
Southern Wisconsin is right on the edge of this span. While many scientists believe most of the object will burn up while entering the atmosphere, there is still a chance some debris makes its way all the way to the ground.
The odds that any debris from this station will hit one specific person are about one million times smaller than winning the Powerball lottery, according to Aerospace.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder activated the state's Emergency Operations Center on March 29 to monitor the reentry of the space station. The southern Lower Peninsula of Michigan is included in the scope where the space station could fall.
“While the chances are slim that any of the debris will land in Michigan, we are monitoring the situation and are prepared to respond quickly if it does,” said Capt. Chris A. Kelenske, Deputy State Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and commander of the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division (MSP/EMSHD). “The state will rely on its existing satellite reentry response and recovery plan for any necessary response protocols.”
Out of all the space debris to have fallen into Earth's atmosphere, it is believed that Lottie Williams is the only person to get hit directly. Fortunately, she survived.
"After the first two missions they lost control of the station and it's just been tumbling ever since," said Mike Murray, astronomer and manager of the Delta College Planetarium. "There is a likelihood that some small pieces could survive reentry."
Murray said those pieces could land in Michigan.
"The reentry time has been narrowed down to get this April 1, no fooling. With anywhere between 16 hour window before or after," Murray said. "With Michigan, we're right towards the edges of where the extreme northern latitudes might come down. The odds are just a little higher that it could come down at this latitude."
If it does fall from the sky and crash into Michigan, authorities say you need to keep your distance because it is toxic.
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