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Your chance of dying from a falling Chinese rocket? Less than 1 in a trillion

Possible Long March 5B reentry locations lie anywhere along the blue and yellow ground track. Areas not under the line are not exposed to the debris.

Enlarge / Possible Long March 5B reentry locations lie anywhere along the blue and yellow ground track. Areas not under the line are not exposed to the debris. (credit: The Aerospace Corporation)

The Chinese rocket that will fall back to Earth in a few days is equivalent in size to two semi-truck trailers, and as much as 40 percent of this metal will reach the Earth’s surface, experts say.

Although the overall risk of harm to people is low—there is only a 0.5 percent chance of injury or death to a human, based on one model—these risks are nonetheless higher than accepted by most spacefaring nations, said Ted Muelhaupt, a reentry and debris expert at The Aerospace Corporation.

Muelhaupt and other analysts spoke with reporters during a teleconference Wednesday, about two days before the predicted reentry of the Long March 5B core stage. As it acquires more orbital data, the nonprofit Aerospace Corporation plans to continue updating its entry forecast. As of Thursday morning, it predicted a reentry of 7:17pm ET Friday (23:17 UTC), plus or minus 10 hours.

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