Chinese rocket debris falls into Indian Ocean amid US criticism

US officials saw the uncontrolled reentry as irresponsible.

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A Long March 5B rocket, carrying China's Tianhe space station core module, lifts off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in southern China's Hainan province on April 29, 2021. - China OUT (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)
STR/AFP via Getty Images

China's large Long March 5b rocket has fallen to Earth mostly as expected, much to the chagrin of critics. According to the BBC, Chinese media said debris from the uncontrolled reentry splashed into the Indian Ocean just West of the Maldives at about 10:24PM Eastern. It's unclear if any debris hit land, although harm to people or property was unlikely given the location.

The rocket launched on April 29th to carry a Tiangong space station component into orbit, and started losing altitude soon afterward. A 2020 rocket is believed to have spread some debris on Ivory Coast in western Africa.

US officials unsurprisingly blasted China for its handling of the reentry. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson accused China of "failing to meet responsible standards" for space debris, arguing that the country should have done what it could to reduce risks for people below. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin echoed the statement.

China is unlikely to change its ways any time soon. State-backed press treated American concerns as "hype" and anticipated a water landing. Still, it's a sharp contrast to modern US launches, some of which now include reusable rockets where few if any parts are unaccounted for.

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