US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced - yesterday, Thursday - that the Pentagon does not yet intend to destroy the Chinese space missile, which is expected to enter the Earth's atmosphere within the next two days, and to fall in a place that may be inhabited.
And Austin - during a press conference - criticized Beijing for losing control of the missile, and said that he hoped the missile would fall in a place where it would not harm anyone, "in the ocean or somewhere like that, we hope so."
In response to a question about when the missile is expected to fall, the US secretary said, "According to the latest estimates that I have seen, it is expected that this will happen on the eighth or the ninth of May."
Austin pointed out that what happened is evidence that anyone working in space must "have an obligation to operate in a safe and thoughtful manner, and that all of this be taken into account when planning operations."
What is the story of the missile?
Last week, China launched the first of the three components of its space station with the "Long March 5B" missile, and after the station's space unit was separated, the missile began to orbit around the Earth in an irregular path with its gradual decline, making it nearly impossible to predict the point at which it would enter the atmosphere. Hence where it will fall.
And the missile may disintegrate upon entering the atmosphere to leave only pieces of debris that fall to the ground, but if the missile remains complete, it is more likely that it will fall into one of the oceans or seas.
This is not the first time that China has lost control of a spacecraft upon its return to Earth. In April 2018, the "Tiangong-1" space laboratory disintegrated upon its return to the atmosphere, two years after it had stopped working. I lost control of the lab.