2-Ton Chunk of China Satellite Plunges Into Pacific Off Peru

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Associated Press

A two-ton chunk of a Chinese satellite plunged back into the atmosphere Thursday, took a 1,000-mile detour, then dropped into the Pacific Ocean west of Peru, officials said.

Until the last moments, trackers at the U.S. Space Command expected the satellite to drop into the Pacific about 500 miles off Baja California.

“It skipped 1,000 miles south,” Maj. Bob Butt said.

Space debris traveling 17,000 m.p.h. takes unpredictable twists and turns when it brakes in the thickening atmosphere.


Butt said there were no immediate reports of anyone seeing the falling spacecraft, which came down during daylight hours over the Pacific. At night, such returning objects provide a spectacular light show as friction from the atmosphere heats them.

China said the satellite carried microgravity experiments and a diamond-studded medallion of Mao Tse-tung. It was launched Oct. 8 from the Jiuquan Launch Center in the Gobi Desert.

Ten days later, a capsule containing the experiments was to have separated and parachuted to Earth for retrieval. But when ground controllers radioed the re-entry commands on Oct. 18, the satellite went out of control, split in two and stayed in orbit.

Space Command officials are predicting that the other, lighter part of the satellite will burn up in the atmosphere next month.