The Chinese communist regime is a box of surprises — bad ones. We have not yet recovered from the coronavirus pandemic they caused, and they have already exposed us to another huge risk. At 11:33 a.m. on May 11, a gigantic, out-of-control space object crossed the atmosphere and fell into the Atlantic Ocean, showering debris over several villages on the Ivory Coast.
It even crashed into a family’s house, not causing casualties but spreading panic throughout the area. Just 15 minutes earlier, it had flown over New York, threatening the country’s most populated city with a space massacre.
It was not a mistake, nor a mission failure. Quite simply, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues to completely disregard human lives. In fact, it considers the mission to have been “a great success.”
What plummeted to Earth was the wreckage of the Long March 5B rocket, launched May 5 from the Wenchang Space Launch Center. According to the calculations of Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who has followed this event in detail, it weighed about 20 tons and is the largest space vehicle to fall out of control to Earth since the Soviet space station Salyut, which crashed in Argentina in 1991.
The crash of Long March 5B was closely followed by the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron, which monitors space debris from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The official Chinese story rambles on about the mission’s success and the extraordinary separation between the rocket and its cargo 488 seconds after takeoff, but does not say a word about what happened next.
China wants to use the Long March 5B to lead a manned space flight. According to the CCP, it is the “third step” in its program to build a space station. The mission was an important test in this race. Despite its enormous size, however, the rocket did not have a second stage to control of the central part of the vehicle after launch. In other words, China had planned only for the launch. It hadn’t provided any information about the craft’s re-entry to Earth, nor did it have a plan to bring it down safely.
The Long March 5B Crash Caused Destruction in Africa
If the Long March were a small rocket, it would have disintegrated when it passed through the atmosphere, but a 176-foot-tall rocket with 10 engines does not completely disintegrate on re-entry. For the sake of comparison, the impending fall of the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 rocked the world in 2018, and it weighed only eight tons. Long March 5B weighs more than double that. Even if atmospheric shock broke it into a million pieces, it would still pose a serious danger if it fell into populated areas.
Following the first reports received from the Ivory Coast last Tuesday night about engine parts falling over several villages in the country, it has been confirmed they are remnants of the Chinese rocket. Local media say it is a miracle that the shower of pipes and engine parts has not caused any casualties, as far as we know.
McDowell tweeted an image of one of the objects that hit Mahoungou in Bocanda and is 12 meters long. It is unclear whether the Ivory Coast can even claim damages from China, because the African country is not a signatory of the Space Liability Convention, which states that a country causing such an incident must pay for any physical or personal injuries caused by a spacecraft’s return to Earth.
In any case, fixing an African family’s home will always be cheaper for the Chinese than designing a second stage for Long March 5B that would allow them to better control its evolution and destroy the space debris in case its trajectory back to Earth put populated areas at risk.
CCP-Caused Wreckage Is Inevitable
The problem of the return of space experiments to Earth is an old controversy. The discussion is often settled with misleading data, such as the famous “one in a billion,” which is the probability of a piece of space junk falling on you, according to the European Space Agency’s Space Debris Office. But this calculation assumes the low probability that a rocket fragment will pass through Earth’s atmosphere, or that any pieces survive such an occurrence.
When we know the remains of a huge rocket are hurling toward our planet, however, those probabilities are altered. The question is no longer whether it will fall, but where and when, and whether there will be damage or casualties.
Obviously, if 70 percent of Earth’s surface is water, this considerably reduces the risk of something falling on you from space. Even so, it is worth asking what would happen if the remains of Long March 5B ripped through New York City, destroyed the European Parliament, or fell on a nuclear power station in France. That the probability is small does not mean we can give countries like China or Russia carte blanche to carry out space tests with zero accountability.
While the whole world fights the Wuhan virus and faces a dramatic economic crisis, China is maintaining its most ambitious space programs to date. It is surprising the launch took place May 5, at the height of the health crisis, and that the CCP itself considers it a success that such a test could be carried out in the context of the pandemic, as stated in the congratulatory note issued by the CCP’s Central Committee, the State Council, and the Central Military Commission.
China repeatedly fails to comply with rocket-launch regulations, as it sends the crafts off from populated areas. Last year, during the launch of Long March 3B, its first stage fell in the vicinity, destroying several houses and contaminating the area with highly toxic fuel residues. Although the Chinese government veils any technological failures in absolute secrecy, Western sources consider that hundreds of people could have died.
As usual, the CCP’s propaganda machine littered social networks with two surprising statements impossible to prove: that the people were evacuated before the crash and that the owners of the destroyed houses were happy because the regime would give them new houses.
China Will Break Its Space-Launch Record in 2020
China is planning numerous more space tests in the coming months. The Long March 5 rockets will be launched three times in 2020. China plans to make about 40 total space launches during the year, a record number, according to data provided by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.
Nothing seems to have changed since the accident on Feb. 15, 1996, when the Long March 3B rocket launched from Xichang strayed a few seconds after takeoff and landed in a nearby village, causing a huge explosion and killing an undetermined number of people. The communist regime admitted then to about 50 injured and six dead, but U.S. investigators, backed by testimonies of the victims’ relatives, estimated the number of fatalities could have been between 300 and 500 inhabitants.
It is possible the coronavirus crisis, in which China’s responsibilities seem unquestionable, will finally force us to rethink the international impunity the CCP enjoys in different economic and technological areas. Perhaps the requests now being made in Congress for information on Chinese drones will be the first step toward keeping a well-warranted, watchful, and suspicious eye on China, a communist regime that has proved time and time again to be a serious threat, not just to freedom but also to human life.
Translated by Joel Dalmau.