Dave & Dujanovic: Chinese rocket falling back to Earth, but space expert says don’t worry

May 6, 2021, 3:20 PM | Updated: 3:37 pm
Chinese rocket...
In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a Long March 5B rocket carrying a module for a Chinese space station lifts off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Wenchang in southern China's Hainan Province, Thursday, April 29, 2021. China has launched the core module on Thursday for its first permanent space station that will host astronauts long-term. (Jin Liwang/Xinhua via AP)
(Jin Liwang/Xinhua via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY — Heads up: A failing Chinese rocket flying through space at 18,000 mph in a decaying orbit is coming back home to Earth in a hurry, and no one knows where it will land. 

Debris from the 22-ton, 98-feet-long rocket is expected to crash back to Earth on Saturday. 

China’s Long March 5B rocket is “unpredictably” falling back to Earth after launching a part of the new T-shaped Chinese space station on Thursday in Wenchang, according to SpaceNews.

Chinese rocket coming down

Patrick Wiggins, NASA ambassador for Utah, joined Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to provide some details, especially the part about it flying over Utah every 90 minutes.

Wiggins started by correcting a false statement that has been orbiting around this news story. 

“Nothing this large has fallen back to Earth in our lifetime,” said Drew Coffman on TikTok.

“In 1979, the United States Skylab at almost 80 tons came hurdling back to Earth. Parts of it landed in Australia. I’m happy to say I’ve actually got a piece […] that somebody gave me,” Wiggins said.

So there.

Remember Earth is mostly water (71%)

Wiggins said most of the areas where the debris is likely to land are either uninhabited or covered in water. He also advised not to sweat it.

“We’ve got about a week or so until Tax Day, so worry about that if you want to worry about something,” Wiggins said.

The rocket passes a little farther north than cities at about 40 degrees north latitude, including New York City, Madrid and Beijing and passes as far south as southern Chile and New Zealand, according to EarthSky.

Salt Lake City is located at 40.7 degrees north latitude. Right inside the drop zone.

“It flies right over Utah several times today and tomorrow and the next day,” Wiggins said.

“Did you just say this is flying over Utah several times a day?” Dave asked.

“Oh, yeah,” he said.

“Can I see this with the naked eye or do I need a special telescope, Patrick?” Debbie asked.

“This particular rocket seems to be out of control and tumbling. And as it tumbles across the sky, it’s brighter sections will shine light down towards us, but then it tumbles and it’s darker area is exposed, and hence, unlike the space station that we watched sometimes that’s a nice constant light going across this guy, this is going bright, faint, bright, faint,” Wiggins said. “So, we may see it, we may not. I just don’t know at this point.”

The tumbling rocket will begin to hit more and more air molecules; that resistance will start to bring it closer to Earth as it falls out of orbit and gravity begins to take over.

“If I could be guaranteed a safe vantage point, I would love to see this thing hit the atmosphere. It’s going to put on a light show like you’ve never seen before,” Wiggins said. “Fortunately, the vast majority is going to burn out before it gets to the ground.”

Read this, too:

Mysterious lights appeared over Utah skies last night


Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  

Today’s Top Stories


Ron and Sy Snarr, of Salt Lake City, talk on Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, about how they forgave Jorge Be...
Amy Donaldson

“The Letter” – After the murder of Zachary Snarr, a family tries to rebuild

A family realizes that returning to a sense of normalcy after the death of Zachary Snarr is a complicated and lonely road.
2 days ago
death Benvenuto The Letter Yvette Rodier Zach Snarr...
Amy Donaldson

“The Letter” – A Utah family weighs the death penalty

How the definition of justice changed for the family and friends who lost 18-year-old Zachary Snarr to a murderer.
8 days ago
The Letter Jorge Benvenuto Zachary Snarr Utah...
Amy Donaldson

“The Letter” – What suspected killer Jorge Benvenuto said about the girl who survived

Detectives said 19-year-old Jorge Benvenuto was trying to build the courage to kill himself before he came upon two kids at Little Dell Reservoir.
16 days ago
Pinocchio (voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) in Disney's live-action PINOCCHIO, exclusively on Dis...
KellieAnn Halvorsen

FAN EFFECT REVIEW: Disney’s latest version of ‘Pinocchio’ is a nostalgic dose of CGI magic

"Pinocchio" gives a modern touch to the animated classic with CGI-infused magic, a handful of updated plot points, and a diversity of players.
21 days ago
Midterm Elections...
Jeff Caplan

100 Days until midterm elections

The midterm elections are only 100 days away! Many have been predicting a red wave this fall, but what do the polls show, and is it too soon to tell?
2 months ago
Buttigieg infrastructure...
Heather Kelly

Secretary Buttigieg discusses how the infrastructure bill will help Utah

Buttigieg said that the infrastructure bill allots $12 million for Utah in fiscal 2022 and up to $65 million over the next five years.
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
large group of friends tohether in a park having fun...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

What differentiates BYU’s MBA program from other MBA programs

Commitment to service is at the heart of BYU’s MBA program, which makes it stand out among other MBA programs across the country.
a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Dave & Dujanovic: Chinese rocket falling back to Earth, but space expert says don’t worry