Chinese space station falls to Earth safely

China's space lab Tiangong-2 re-entered the earth's atmosphere under control at around 21:06 on Friday (Beijing time), China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) said.

A small amount of the spacecraft's debris fell into the pre-determined safe sea area in the South Pacific, according to the agency.

Tiangong-2 (Heavenly Palace 2)'s controlled re-entry into the atmosphere marks the successful completion of all the tasks in the space lab phase in China's manned space program, said Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China's manned space program.

Efforts are being made to step up preparations for constructing China's space station, CMSA said.

Tiangong-2, an improved version of Tiangong-1, is considered China's first space lab. Launched on September 15, 2016, the space lab has worked in orbit over 1000 days, much longer than its two-year designed lifespan.

Comprising an experiment module and a resource module, the space lab has a total length of 10.4 metres, a maximum diameter of 3.35 metres and a takeoff weight of 8.6 tonnes. After its solar panels are unfolded, its wingspan reaches 18.4 metres.

China made breakthroughs in a series of key technologies through the Tiangong-2 mission, such as medium-term space residence of astronauts and in-orbit propellant refueling, accumulating important experience for building and operating China's future space station.

More than 60 space science experiments and technological tests have been carried out on the space lab.

So far, China has launched 11 manned spaceships, one cargo spacecraft, Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2, sending 11 astronauts into space, completing the first two steps of the program.

Tiangong-1 crashed into the Pacific Ocean near Tahiti on April 2, 2018, after falling uncontrollably from space after scientists lost contact with it. 

It was briefly feared the 8.5-tonne toxic station would hit New Zealand. 

The next step will be to assemble and operate a permanent manned space station.

"The successful completion of the Tiangong-2 Space Laboratory mission marks the beginning of China's entry into the era of space station, which means we have entered the third stage of space station construction. The significance of the space laboratory mission is that it has verified some key technologies of the space station," said Zhu Congpeng, chief designer of Tiangong-2 from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

Reuters / Newshub.