There are no plans to blow up a Chinese rocket that could hit inhabited areas when it re-enters the Earth's atmosphere, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin has confirmed.
Speaking during a press conference with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Austin said: “We have the capability to do a lot of things but we don’t have a plan to shoot it down as we speak.”
The Pentagon, America's nerve centre of military defence, is monitoring the movements and the trajectory of the Chinese rocket and expects it to re-enter the atmosphere over the weekend.
According to news.com.au experts believe that the space debris, weighing possibly several tonnes, could land when it returns.
The worrying situation is a result of the Long March 5B rocket launch by China on April 29 to deliver the first module for China’s new space station.
According to reports, when the rocket separated from the space station module it began to orbit Earth in an irregular trajectory which is why predicting the landing zone is proving difficult.
“I think this speaks to the fact that for those of us who operate in the space domain. There should be a requirement to operate in a safe and thoughtful mode," General Austin added.
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The Pentagon estimates that the rocket will probably return on Sunday but China has hit back at criticisms.
In the paper Global Times, a mouthpiece for the Chinese Communist Party, it says the rocket will land in international waters and claims reports it is "out of control" are "hype".
The article claims the space debris will likely burn up when it enters the Earth's atmosphere, leaving only a small possibility that tiny fragments may hit land.
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Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Thursday: “I don’t want to hypothesise or speculate about possible actions the department might or might not take here."
“We're tracking it. We're following it as closely as we can. It's just a little too soon right now to know where it's going to go or what if anything can be done about that.”
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