China's Tiangong Space Lab Mostly Burns Up on Re-Entry in South Pacific

European Space Agency says the Chinese space lab may re-enter the atmosphere as late as Monday morning GMT

"It would have been fun for people to see it, but there will be other reentries", McDowell told AFP.

Space officials had warned that knowing the exact location of the re-entry would not be possible until shortly before it happened.

The operation was in line with the space command's mission "to monitor space and the tens of thousands of pieces of debris that congest it, while at the same time working with allies and partners to enhance spaceflight safety and increase transparency in the space domain", said Maj.

The Tiangong-1, which translates as "Heavenly Palace", has been gradually orbiting closer to Earth since the it was decommissioned from use on March 16, 2016.

A control center in Beijing monitored the spacecraft's descent, and most of Tiangong 1 was expected to burn up during re-entry, Chinese officials said.

At the time, China had predicted a late 2017 re-entry, but later estimates pushed that date back into early 2018.

The demise of Tiangong-1 has been long anticipated.

Launched in 2011, Tiangong 1 was China's first space station, serving as an experimental platform for bigger projects, such as the Tiangong 2 launched in September 2016, and a future permanent Chinese space station.

The module - which was used to practise complicated manual and automatic docking techniques - was originally meant to be used for just two years, but ended up serving considerably longer.

That was months before the Chinese government acknowledged that the space lab would be re-entering the earth. Space enthusiasts have been bracing for its fiery return since.

The ESA has said that ground controllers were no longer able to command Tiangong-1 to fire its on-board engines, which could have been used to determine where it re-entered Earth's atmosphere.

Chiao said the original plan was to guide the space station down in a controlled manner, "much like the Mir space station was". China plans to finalise its space station to rival Mir, the Russian space station now in orbit by 2022.

China's astronauts and scientists have also talked up manned missions to Mars as it strives to become a "global space power".

China's Tiangong-1 space station re-entered the earth's atmosphere and burnt up over the middle of the South Pacific on Monday (Apr 2), the Chinese space authority said.

The eight-tonne space lab, which measured about the size of a school bus, crashed into the southern Pacific Ocean about 8.15am Hong Kong time (00.15 GMT), ending weeks of uncertainty as to where it would end up. A third astronaut slept in the Shenzhou spaceships that docked with the station, which also contained facilities for personal hygiene and food preparation.

The new superpower is looking to finally catch up with the United States and Russian Federation after years of belatedly matching their space milestones.

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