A “Long March” Ahead

by Izaak Garcia

As more nations look to space, a potentially disastrous mistake with a Chinese rocket is a reminder of the challenges ahead.

Recently, part of a Chinese rocket became one of the largest pieces of space debris to make an uncontrolled reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. It captured the world’s attention—and while no one was harmed, it is a reminder of the dangers associated with space flight.

The Chinese rocket, a model of the Long March 5B series meant for space travel and orbit, was launched on April 29, 2021, with the intent to break apart into its main core and reach orbit above the Earth’s atmosphere. The Long March 5B is not a single rocket with a single mission, but rather a part of a larger series of space missions. The overall goal is to shuttle materials—and eventually a crew— to space, with the end goal being to build a permanent Chinese space station in 2022. This specific rocket would carry the main module of the Chinese space station, which is a critical part in building it. Constructing a space station is no easy task, but when it is accomplished, many good things can come from it, such as improvements to medical care and advanced space exploration to different planets. But it must first be built, and as you will see, China has had some difficulties on that end.

Not long after the rocket had been launched into orbit around the earth, things started to go awry. For instance, as soon as the Long March went into orbit above the Earth, it almost immediately began to lose height due to the slowly decaying orbit, and come back down towards Earth. Along with the main core of the rocket losing height, the Chinese team that was in charge of the rocket reported that they had lost control of it entirely, and that they could not anticipate where the rocket would land when it came back down to Earth. This would prove extremely problematic for both the Chinese space team and the world. Without knowing where the rocket and its debris would land, it was impossible to tell how much damage it could possibly do. Luckily many governments kept an eye on the falling rocket, and even put up a live tracker for the public. On May 8, 2021, around 10:15 pm Eastern time, the Long March 5B rocket and its debris re-entered Earth’s atmosphere, and soon after crashed into the Indian Ocean.

Many risks go into pushing the boundaries of what we know is safe, especially out in the cold expanse of space. Even the early space leaders such as the United States and Russia made mistakes. The only way we avoid going backwards is to go forward. As time passes, the world’s technology will continue to improve. And who knows? Perhaps in the future, it won’t just be a couple of countries going into space—but many, many more.

About Izaak Garcia

Izaak Garcia is currently a senior at Richwoods High School, enrolled in the International Baccalaureate program. After high school, Garcia plans to study Computer Science. He has played soccer with FC Peoria and Richwoods for over a decade combined. Garcia has also played tennis for 4 years, securing a spot on both junior varsity and varsity teams. Along with this, he has competed with the Richwoods Worldwide Youth Science and Engineering team for Biology and Computer Science for 2 years and earned multiple awards for the school. Garcia is also heavily involved with the arts. As a multi-instrumentalist, he has played the saxophone for 8 years and piano for 2 years. During his junior year of high school, he was involved in theater at Richwoods as stage crew and manager. He helped with two total productions and was being trained to be stage manager for senior year before the COVID-19 pandemic impacted school. Outside of school activities, Garcia is involved in Jack and Jill of America (an organization for young African American men and women to serve the community). He served as his chapter’s treasurer during his freshman year of high school. Along with Jack and Jill of America, he enjoys coding, learning new coding languages, and video games.