The Chinese Long March 5B missile is expected to enter Earth’s atmosphere “around May 8,” according to a statement by Defense Department spokesman Mike Howard, who said that the US Space Command is tracking the missile’s path.
“I don’t think people should take precautions. The risk of some harm or someone getting hurt is very small – it can’t be neglected, it can happen – but the risk of it infecting you is very small. So I will not lose a second of sleep because of this on the basis of personal threat. ”
McDowell explained that determining where the debris could be headed is nearly impossible at this point due to the speed at which the missile is moving – even with slight changes in conditions that radically alter the trajectory.
“We expect to re-enter it sometime between the eighth and tenth of May. And in this two-day period, it rotates around the world 30 times. The thing travels at 18,000 miles per hour. So if you’ve been out for an hour guessing when you’re going down, you’re 18,000 miles away to say where. ”
McDowell added, “So you shouldn’t believe anyone who says to you, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve heard he’s coming down in that particular place.'” “Do not believe them at least a few hours before re-entry because we will not know in advance.”
However, the ocean remains the safest bet on where the debris will land, he said, just because it occupies most of the Earth’s surface.
McDowell said: “If you want to bet where something will land on Earth, you are betting on the Pacific Ocean, because the Pacific Ocean is the largest part of the Earth. It’s that simple. ”
The concern over space debris comes after China launched the first unit of its planned space station last Thursday morning from the Wenchang launch site on the southern island of Hainan, according to the China National Space Administration.
CNN’s Katie Hunt contributed to this report.