Scientists are nervously watching a 19,000-pound Chinese space station's course because its out-of-control route is making it impossible to figure out where it will crash.China lost control of unmanned space station Tiangong-1 in June 2016, and the thing has been orbiting out of control ever since. It sounds like it is expected to re-enter the atmosphere in March, and will eventually crash-land somewhere on Earth—but nobody knows exactly where, or when.
Holger Krag, head of the European Space Agency's Space Debris Office, while spending his days in possession of an amazing job description, also had this to say: “The date, time and geographic footprint of the reentry can only be predicted with large uncertainties. Even shortly before reentry, only a very large time and geographical window can be estimated.”
And a Harvard astrophysicist named Jonathan McDowell told the Guardian:
“Even a couple of days before it re-enters we probably won’t know better than six or seven hours, plus or minus, when it’s going to come down. Not knowing when it’s going to come down translates as not knowing where its going to come down.... There will be lumps of about 100kg or so, still enough to give you a nasty wallop if it hit you.”So far, scientists have only determined that Tiangong-1 will impact Earth sometime in March, and will hit somewhere in between the 43 degree North and 43 degree South latitudes—a wide swath of the planet that includes six continents and much of North America, southern Europe, and the most densely populated parts of Asia. Since Portland is just north of the 45th parallel, we should be safe altogether, and the New York Post says the actual chances of hitting a populated area are 1 in 10,000.