Fireballs were spotted in the sky around 4 a.m. Thursday morning, leaving Southwest Florida residents confused and concerned. Many were unsure what had created the fireballs, with some blaming asteroids, Chinese spy balloons, and even drones. According to astronomers, the fireballs were created by the remains of a Chinese rocket burning up on reentry.
The rocket in question was launched on March 22 and is believed to have carried Chinese satellites into orbit. The fireballs that appeared as a massive glow over the sky in Florida were the remains of the Chinese rocket’s fourth stage, burning up in an uncontrolled reentry.
Videos of the occurrence appeared on Twitter throughout the morning on Thursday, though it wasn’t until later in the afternoon that astronomers like Jonathan McDowell set the record straight about what had caused the event. Unfortunately, it isn’t uncommon for the remains of Chinese rockets to make uncontrolled reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
In fact, this is only the latest incident where a stage from a Chinese rocket has reentered the atmosphere uncontrolled, posing a significant risk to any residents that live within the areas where the events happen. Back in 2020, the remains of a Chinese rocket almost hit a school as it tumbled back to Earth.
The country has made some enormous strides in space exploration. Still, without properly controlled reentries, every launch it makes can turn into a risk to people on the ground. Hopefully, this incident is another reminder of the importance of providing safe ways for rocket hardware to return to Earth, and hopefully, future Chinese rocket remains will have better-controlled reentries.
Unfortunately, China has always been very tight-lipped about how they handle things when it comes to their space exploration. With the country continuing to push for more space exploration missions and even planning to probe Uranus in a future mission, we’ll hopefully see some updated measures taken on future launches.