China will launch its second space lab into the sky on Thursday, the country has said, while still keeping an eye on their first space lab, which remains in space, mindlessly circling the Earth on a path of inevitable and uncontrolled destruction.
That’s because, last week, China revealed what many in the space community already thought to be true: they had lost control of their space station Tiangong-1, which is now slowly, if surely, falling back to Earth.
As Popular Mechanics points out, this is not the usual order of things. The station, which was launched in 2011, had its mission repeatedly extended, but, earlier this year, China officially ended its service.
What usually happens next is a controlled burn into the Earth’s atmosphere. But China has said that it no longer has control of the station, and, for now, all it can do is watch.
“Based on our calculation and analysis, most parts of the space lab will burn up during falling,” Wu Ping, deputy director of the manned space engineering office, said at a press conference Wednesday.
There is a remote chance that parts of the station could survive the burn, falling to Earth and causing damage or injuring people, but when the station does begin its final descent—expected to be sometime in late 2017—there will be plenty of people watching, for just this reason.
It also promises, if all goes well, to be a pretty good show.