It seems unlikely for a rocket ship to travel halfway around the entire globe upon takeoff, but that is just what happened when a faulty Chinese rocket ship had landed near the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. According to astronomer and reporter Jody Serrano, “the 23 ton core of the rocket ship was manufactured improperly, causing the malfunction of the Chinese rocket ship”. We are unsure if any debris was found in the Maldives or on the rocket ship, but with a weight of 23 tons, we can conclude that the results must have been catastrophic.
American and Chinese experts alike had been watching the rocket prior to the incident. Because oceans cover almost 75% of the Earth and because the Pacific Ocean is next door to China, the odds of the rocket landing in a body of water were higher than the rocket detonating on land. Other prototype rockets such as Long March 5B have malfunctioned and fell on American soil in the past landing on the Ivory Coast, so this is not the first reported incident.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson’s reaction to the rocket ship landing is quite harsh: “It is clear that China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris. It is critical that China and all spacefaring nations and commercial entities act responsibly and transparently in space to ensure the safety, stability, security, and long-term sustainability of outer space activities”. In this case, the space-debris consisted of a 98 feet (30 meter) long and 16 feet (5 meter) wide rocket.
Nelson continues, corroborating a study by Harvard biologist Johnathon McDowell: “As [McDowell had] stated, an ocean reentry is statistically most likely to blame for the incident. Unless we get news of debris in the Maldives, it appears China won its gamble. But still, it was reckless”. Nelson calls for more transparency on celestial objects, including rocket ships, in order to minimize the impact these objects have on Earth.
Considering China’s ambition to launch a space station project that would change the world (think Sputnik all over again), more rocket ship prototype launches are expected. Therefore, it is probable that the event could occur multiple times more. This possibility warrants Nelson’s statement and, on behalf on NASA, please use your vehicles wisely to prevent further collision.