China's Tiangong-1 plummets down over South Pacific

The space station re-entered the atmosphere around 00:15 GMT on Monday, with most parts breaking up in the re-entry process

Chinese space station Tiangong-1 re-entered Earth’s atmosphere Monday morning, landing in the middle of the South Pacific, China Manned Space agency said.

It re-entered the atmosphere around 00:15 GMT on Monday, with most parts burning up in the re-entry process.

The space lab, whose name translates to "Heavenly Palace", was launched in September 2011 as a prototype for China's ultimate space goal: a permanent space station is expected to launch around 2022.

Astronomer Jonathan McDowell, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tweeted that it appeared to have come down north-west of Tahiti.

"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," he said.

Anything that did make it through the atmosphere "will be at the bottom of the ocean by now," he added.

US specialists at the Joint Force Space Component Command said they had used orbit analysis technology to confirm Tiangong-1's re-entry.

Experts had struggled to predict exactly where the lab would make its re-entry - and China's space agency wrongly suggested it would be off Sao Paulo, Brazil, shortly before the moment came.

The European Space Agency said in advance that Tiangong-1 would probably break up over water, which covers much of the Earth's surface.

It stressed that the chances of anyone being hit by debris from the module were "10 million times smaller than the yearly chance of being hit by lightning".

It's not clear how much of the debris reached the Earth's surface intact.

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