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Crashing Chinese Rocket – Communist Indifference

rocketChina’s 23-ton crashing rocket debris – which could have been deorbited with care – is another example of Communist China’s indifference to global norms. It landed in the Indian Ocean – but could have crashed anywhere.  Just as China disclaims responsibility for COVID and treaties on Hong Kong, human rights, intellectual property, trade, cybercrime, and militarization of space and oceans, they ignore basic norms of civilized countries and safety in space.

That massive chunk of Chinese space debris was a “throwaway” stage from a Chinese “Long March 5B” rocket China used to put their “Tianhe” space station in orbit.  Until entering the atmosphere, it was orbiting every 90 minutes at 18,000 miles an hour – ready to drop.

De-orbiting debris safely and with precision is possible for China as the rest of the world – but China apparently erred or did not care. Rocket debris and spent satellites can be directed away from population centers and into the ocean with controlled launch trajectories, proper altitude control, deorbiting procedures – to mitigate risk. See, e.g., https://www.nasa.gov/smallsat-institute/sst-soa-2020/passive-deorbit-systems; http://asl.stanford.edu/wp-content/papercite-data/pdf/Bylard.MacPherson.Hockman.ea.AeroConf17.pdf.

This looks more like recklessness or negligence than intent, but why again? China has done this before. As one deferential commentator noted before the debris fell: “This is the largest item to make an unscheduled re-entry into the atmosphere in many years …The Chinese space agency has made a rather embarrassing blunder, and should anything bad happen, consequences will have to be dealt with.” See https://www.eadt.co.uk/news/chinese-rocket-stage-falling-to-earth-7956592.

So, Chinese leaders effectively endangered every country and city in the world. In the final days, New York was on the “could hit” list, as New York and California were vulnerable to a prior tumbling Chinese rocket.  See, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/really-unpredictable-chinese-rocket-hurtling-back-to-earth-possible-debris-zone-spans-huge-swath-of-globe/ar-BB1gvnpG?ocid=uxbndlbing.

In the final hours, a raft of countries and cities braced for damaging debris – deadly in densely populated areas.  Places watching hard were Costa Rica, Haiti, Iberia, Sardinia, Italy, Greece and Crete, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and New Zealand. See https://www.cbsnews.com/news/chinese-rocket-falling-debris-long-march-5b/.

Fortunately, no damage occurred when the massive Chinese rocket hunk reentered the atmosphere without direction, the ability for correction, or advance planning to avoid the contingency.  But what happens the next time, and the next, and next?  China will continue to put pieces and people in space on that space station.

One could say we need another treaty – and perhaps we do—the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 aimed at limiting space to peaceful purposes. China has pushed that treaty’s limits, reportedly testing anti-satellite satellites in orbit. https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/03/31/russia-china-space-war-treaty-demilitarization-satellites/. They are reportedly building space weapons right now. https://www.newsweek.com/china-building-destructive-space-weapons-blind-us-satellites-intelligence-report-reveals-1583672.

Ironically, China proposed in 2021 – with Russia – a treaty banning space weapons. They desperately want the United States to sign.  Some think that is a trick. US policymakers are circumspect and should be. https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/04/28/the-russia-china-space-weaponization-treaty/. While no one wants weapons in space – or a new arms race – the question is whether any treaty will hold China. Would China adhere, having dishonored so many treaties?

Bottom line: China could have used care and prevented this multi-ton rocket debris from randomly crashing – putting the world on edge. They are notorious treaty violators. So, yes, we should have legal agreements to prevent both space weapons and randomly crashing rockets.  But the question is:  Can we ever trust China? This incident puts an exclamation point behind the question mark.  The day is coming when China must be held accountable for indifference. Their offenses are multiplying.

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Danni
4 months ago

I wish that thing had landed right on top of the Chinese presidential building. Maybe, just maybe they would change their attitude going forward. “I’M JUST SAYING “.

Phillip
4 months ago

An interesting article, but I must disagree with one point the author made: no one wants weapons in space. On the contrary, that’s the most logical place for them. Space is the ultimate high ground; weapons are more efficient and effective in space; the use of weapons in space is less likely to trigger an all out war, much like an incident at sea being less provocative than a border incursion. There’s no need to couch our arguments in less aggressive tones. We must be cognizant of the threat China poses and be ready, willing and able to stand up to these bullies.

Chris
4 months ago

Sum ting went wong with China’s 23-ton crashing rocket. The rocket became disoriented.  

Phillip
4 months ago
Reply to  Chris

????????

Phillip
4 months ago
Reply to  Phillip

That’s a good one.

Charlotte A Mahin
4 months ago

Since Beijing Biden and many other high profile Democrats are working hand-in-hand with China, why would they call out China for anything they do? Ever hear of collusion? They are getting rich by helping them. In my opinion, the two countries are working together to be the world’s largest governing body. I am not hopeful that the GOP will win in 2022. The Communist Chinese and our DC Communists are in lock-step and are willing to do ANYTHING to keep their power. They do not care how many people they hurt or kill along the way.

B4&After
4 months ago

No, you can’t and never will be able to trust China. They are going to do whatever they think is in their best interest and will continue to push, or ignore, any limitations on their plans. A treaty is simply a mechanism to restrict others. They will never live up to any terms.

We are going to have an arms war in space. We can either get in front of it, or fall behind. But we are not going to be able to prevent it. Total destruction seems to be man’s ultimate goal. And we are getting better and better at achieving it.

Stephen Russell
4 months ago

Agreed, China has No care, see Wuhan virus day 1 to date
Lies about origins, etc.
Now see from space, scary

B4&After
4 months ago

Of course they don’t care. And the democrats have taken this page out of the Chinese play book. Lie, cheat, and control the narrative. And it worked perfectly! Look what it’s gotten them! Everything! And now they are in position to make the 2020 Steal permanent. So, the next question is. Can we ever trust the democrats?

PaulE
4 months ago

Why should China care? It knows it will pay no meaningful price for its actions. It paid no substantial price for SARS or Covid-19. They actually made substantial economic and political gains from both. Do you think they care if some international body of bureaucrats says something mildly criticizing China’s actions? They’ll just buy control or twist a few bureaucratic arms at any international body and that will be the end of that. The most recent example being the WHO. A puppet organization robotically repeating whatever the CCP tells them to say.

You write “But the question is: Can we ever trust China?” Well the answer is of course NO, but we all should have learned that well before now. So yes, the Chinese allowed a 22 ton spent rocket assembly to fall uncontrolled back to earth. THEY DON’T CARE.

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