China's Tiangong-1 plummets to death over South Pacific ocean

What goes up must come down, especially if you don't remain in orbit. That is the fate that befell China's first space station attempt which the country simply told the rest of the world "ceased to function". While there have been speculations and conspiracies on what happened or the bus-sized station would land, reality is, fortunately, more boring and less dangerous. Space agencies have confirmed that Tiangong-1 re-entered the Earth's atmosphere and crashed and burned, literally, over the southern Pacific ocean.

Tiangong-1 is an expression of China's space ambitions and, to some extent, now also a symbol of failure. Launched in 2011, the space station was really just a first step in the country's grand plan to establish a presence in space. It has been used twice to practice how taikonauts, China's term for its astronauts, would dock to a space station.

May last year, China suddenly surprised the UN by saying that Tiangong-1 has ceased functioning. Unsurprisingly, it wouldn't give details why. It simply just gave other countries a heads up that it would be crashing to earth soon. Hopefully not over anyone's heads.

That finally happened over this weekend without much fuss or fanfare that the news initially garnered. It simply reentered the Earth's atmosphere around 5:16 pm PT, according to the US Joint Force Space Component Command (JFSCC). While the JFSCC doesn't provide details on what happens after reentry, it did say it was over the southern Pacific ocean, far away from where it could do harm.

China said that the Tiangong-1 was mostly destroyed upon reentry, though didn't mention was may have survived, as some engineers theorized it would. Tiangong-2, its second space station launched in 2016, remains in orbit.