NASA administrator says China is failing to meet ‘responsible standards’ for space debris, after parts of an uncontrolled rocket landed in the Indian Ocean

  • NASA’s Bill Nelson on Sunday said China hadn’t met “responsible standards” for uncontrolled debris.
  • Debris from a Chinese rocket landed in the Indian Ocean on Sunday. 
  • Space agencies and private companies need to “act responsibly and transparently,” he said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson on Sunday said China was “failing to meet responsible standards” for its space debris.

“Spacefaring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations,” Nelson said in a short statement posted on NASA’s website. 

Debris from a Chinese rocket launched in late April splashed into the Indian Ocean on Sunday, following more than a week of speculation over where on Earth it would crash down. 

“It is clear that China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris, ” Nelson said. 

He added: “It is critical that China and all spacefaring nations and commercial entities act responsibly and transparently in space to ensure the safety, stability, security, and long-term sustainability of outer space activities.”

The debris from Long March 5B landed in the Indian Ocean near the Maldives, China’s space agency said. US Space Command had been tracking the rocket debris, an about 22.5-ton cylinder

Models showed the space junk landing anywhere from North America to Africa, although most experts expected it to land in an ocean. 

On Friday, Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, said the country’s space agency was tracking the re-entry. 

“To my knowledge, the upper stage of this rocket has been deactivated, which means that most of its parts will burn up upon reentry, making the likelihood of damage to aviation or ground facilities and activities extremely low,” he said, according to an official transcript.

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