China’s Long March 5B rocket is expected to enter the Earth’s atmosphere “around May 8,” Defense Department spokesman Mike Howard said in a statement, saying U.S. space command was tracking the rocket’s trajectory.
“I do not think people should take precautions. The risk of getting hurt or hitting someone is quite small – not negligible, it can happen – but the risk of hitting you is extremely small. And so I would not lose a second of sleep because of this personal threat, “he said.
“There are a lot bigger things to worry about.”
McDowell explained that determining where debris could be aimed was nearly impossible at the moment because of the speed at which the rocket was moving – with even slight changes in circumstances that drastically changed the trajectory.
“We expect him to return somewhere between the eighth and the 10th of May. And during this two-day period, he traveled the world 30 times. The thing is moving at about 18,000 miles per hour. So, if you’re an hour outside when you guess when it goes down, you’re 18,000 miles away and you say where. “
“So you shouldn’t trust anyone who tells you, ‘Oh, yes, I’ve heard he’s coming down to this place,'” McDowell added. “Don’t trust them at least a few hours before re-entering, because we just won’t know in advance.”
Still, the ocean remains the surest bet on where the debris will land, he said, only because it occupies most of the earth’s surface.
“If you want to bet where something will land on Earth, bet on the Pacific Ocean, because the Pacific Ocean is most of the Earth. It’s that simple,” McDowell said.
Concerns about the space debris came after China released the first module from its planned space station last Thursday morning from the Wenchang launch site on the southern island of Hainan, according to the Chinese National Space Administration.
CNN’s Katie Hunt contributed to this report.