China's plummeting space station crashed to Earth late Sunday without harming any Earthlings: The country's space agency says the Tiangong-1 burned up on re-entry and the remaining debris fell into the southern Pacific Ocean northwest of Tahiti. The US military's Joint Force Space Component Command confirmed the fate of the 34-foot space station, which was launched in 2011. "It did exactly what it was expected to do; the predictions, at least the past 24 hours' ones, were spot on; and as expected it fell somewhere empty and did no damage," Jonathan McDowell at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics tells CNN.
China told the United Nations in 2017 that the space lab had "ceased functioning." Space experts in other countries said it appeared an uncontrolled re-entry was inevitable, though China denied it had lost control of the spacecraft. "They insist that it is controlled," Heritage Foundation researcher Dean Cheng tells Space.com. "They're very, very unhappy when you use this term 'uncontrolled.'" Some social media users in China posting under the hashtag "Goodbye Tiangong" mocked the space agency's description of its return to Earth, the Guardian reports. "Re-entry? Everyone knows it’s a crash," wrote one. China launched Tiangong-2, its second space lab, in Sept. 2016. (Read more Tiangong-1 stories.)