Spectacular and akin to an opening sequence of space-age doomsday mo-vies, several districts of Maharashtra witnessed a freefall of metallic in-fernos, lighting up the skies. People recorded the shower, initially wrongly speculated as a meteoric shower, and posted it on social media, setting off heightened tension and imaginative speculation amongst many netizens.
So bright and vast was the visual impact that it was spotted even in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh and Telangana. Not at all was burned up space debris though; and a large piece fell in Maharashtra which was found, damaged but unburnt, and sent for investigation.
By most accounts, it appears to be a piece of a Chinese rocket, purportedly of stage 3 of the Chang Zheng (or Long March) 3B, used to launch a satellite last year. It was the re-entry of the rocket into Earth’s atmosphere and landing that created the spectacle.
As per reports, no damage was done to any property or life by the theatrical space junk invasion; it just made for a spectacle and some social media buzz. It is scientifically considered a bit of an outlier event, because often such debris lands in the unclaimed oceans.
While space missions globally use a plethora of tactics to ensure human safety from unwanted but inevitable cosmic return gifts, the global space community feels frustrated because of the secrecy usual to the Chinese.
Like in strategic affairs and international matters, or even their trade and commerce, China adopts a tough defiant posture, evading answerability, transparency or accountability.
While there are no major global laws that can be enforced on largely sovereign space missions, nations have a right to sue other countries for financial damages. But such lawsuits are largely deemed frivolous.
A global body is much needed to bring in greater accountability and fix responsibilities in managing space debris in an increasingly more intense space age of mankind.