WASHINGTON: American space agency NASA on Sunday slammed China for failing to meet "responsible standards" regarding its space debris, hours after remnants of the country''s largest and an out of control rocket disintegrated over the Indian Ocean near the Maldives.
The debris from China's Long March 5B rocket re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere at 10.24 am Beijing time and fell into an open sea area at 72.47 degrees east longitude and 2.65 degrees north latitude, China''s Manned Space Engineering Office said.
Reacting to China's space programme, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said: "It is clear that China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris.”
"Spacefaring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations," he said in a statement.
"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,” said Nelson, former Florida senator and astronaut who was picked for the role in March.
"It is a great honor to lead @NASA, a can-do agency that accomplishes so much! I look forward to a robust future as we continue to explore the heavens," he said in a tweet on May 4.
NASA’s new administrator is big on tackling climate and diversifying the agency's workforce, but hedging on whether the US can put astronauts on the moon by 2024.
The rocket launched the first module of China's new Tianhe space station into Earth''s orbit on April 29. At around 100 feet tall and weighing about 22 metric tonnes, the rocket stage is one of the largest objects to ever re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere on an uncontrolled trajectory.
Its re-entry prompted international concern about where it might land. Scientists said the risk to humans was astronomically low, but it was not impossible for it to land in an inhabited area.
Last year, the re-entry of debris from the first Long March 5B flight fell in Ivory Coast, damaging several homes in villages. It was the largest craft to crash to Earth since the US space laboratory, Skylab scattered debris over the southern Australian town of Esperance in 1979.
China is expected to carry out more launches in its space station programme in the coming weeks as it aims to complete the space station project next year.