According to Chinese media, debris from the Long March-5b rocket booster that had been hurtling back towards Earth has disintegrated over the Indian Ocean.
The bulk of the Chinese rocket was destroyed during the re-entry, but parts landed at a location 72.47° East and 2.65° North, China’s state-run media reported.
The point lies west of the Maldives.
US and European tracking sites had been monitoring the uncontrolled fall of the Long March-5b vehicle.
Chinese state media said parts of the rocket re-entered the atmosphere at 10:24 Beijing time on May 9.
US Space Command said in a statement that it could “confirm the Chinese Long March-5b re-entered over the Arabian Peninsula”. It was “unknown if the debris impacted land or water,” the agency said.
Ahead of the rocket’s re-entry there were fears that debris could come down in an inhabited area. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said China had been negligent in letting the rocket fall out of orbit.
However, space experts had predicted that the chances of anyone actually being hit by a piece of space junk were very small, not least because so much of the Earth’s surface is covered by ocean, and huge land areas are uninhabited.
The main segment from the Long March-5b vehicle was used to launch the first module of China’s new space station last month.
At 18 tonnes it is one of the largest items in decades to have an undirected dive into the atmosphere.
The US said last week it was watching the path of the object – but had no plans to shoot it down.
The experts predicted that most of the vehicle would burn up during its final plunge through the atmosphere, although there was always the possibility that metals with high melting points, and other resistant materials, could survive to the Earth’s surface.
When a similar core stage returned to Earth a year ago, piping assumed to be from the rocket was identified on the ground in Ivory Coast, Africa.
China has bridled at the suggestion that it has been negligent in allowing the uncontrolled return of so large an object.
Commentary in the Chinese media had described Western reports about the potential hazards involved as “hype” and predicted the debris would fall somewhere in international waters.
A 30-day state of emergency has been lifted early in the Maldives after “important progress” in an inquiry into a blast on President Abdulla Yameen’s boat.
The state of emergency was declared on November 4 to aid security forces after what the government said was a plot to assassinate Abdulla Yameen.
Abdulla Yameen narrowly escaped injury when a blast struck his boat last month.
US investigators said they had not been able to find any evidence that the blast was an assassination attempt.
“We are pleased that this matter has been dealt with so swiftly. We are looking forward to getting the country back on a more normal footing,” said Foreign Affairs Minister Dunya Maumoon.
The state of emergency gave wider powers to police and armed forces to arrest suspects and suspend freedom of assembly and movement. Members of the country’s military patrolled the streets while it was in effect.
It came two days before a planned protest by the country’s main opposition, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
The Maldives, a popular destination for honeymooners and other tourists, has been rocked by political unrest in recent months. VP Ahmed Adeeb was impeached earlier this month, accused of involvement in the alleged boat assassination plot.
Ahmed Adeeb, whose predecessor was also impeached in July, is accused of high treason, a charge he denies.
Police in the Maldives have said they are looking into local reports that a low-flying plane was sighted above Kudahuvadhoo, south-west of the capital Male, around 06:15 local time on March 8 and that its colors matched those of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.
The Maldives National Defense Force said that although nothing had been detected on its radar, it would provide any assistance needed for the search.
If the plane was indeed flight MH370, it would have flown far slower than normal, in order for the timings to be possible.
Police in the Maldives have said they are looking into local reports that a low-flying plane was sighted above Kudahuvadhoo
The main Maldives airport is one of those featured in the flight simulator discovered at the home of the captain.
The Malaysian authorities have said the evidence so far suggests the Boeing-777 was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca, with its communications systems disabled. They are unsure what happened next.
Investigators have identified two giant arcs of territory spanning the possible positions of the plane about seven hours after take-off.
This is based on its last faint signal to a satellite – an hourly “handshake” signal that continues even when communications are switched off. The arcs stretch up as far as Kazakhstan in central Asia and deep into the southern Indian Ocean.
Investigators are considering the possibility of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or anyone else on board.
Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed has stepped down after weeks of demonstrations and a mutiny by some police officers.
In an address on state TV, Mohamed Nasheed said it would be “better for the country in the current situation” if he stood down.
Vice-President Waheed Hassan has been sworn in as president after Mohamed Nasheed stepped down.
Tensions escalated after the Maldives army arrested a senior judge last month, prompting bitter street protests in the Indian Ocean island chain.
A source close to the president described Tuesday’s developments as a “coup by the former regime”.
But the army and the vice-president have denied a coup has taken place.
Waheed Hassan’s office denied widespread reports the military pressured Mohamed Nasheed to resign, the AP news agency reports.
“It was not a coup at all, it was the wish of the people,” said Ahmed Thoufeeg, Waheed Hassan’s secretary.
Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed has stepped down after weeks of demonstrations and a mutiny by some police officers
Mohamed Nasheed announced his resignation during a televised news conference.
“It will be better for the country in the current situation if I resign. I don’t want to run the country with an iron fist. I am resigning,” Mohamed Nasheed said.
Earlier, a group of mutinying police officers took control of the state broadcaster in the capital, Male, and began playing out messages in support of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Several journalists were said to be detained in the facility.
Sources in the office of Mohamed Nasheed said Tuesday’s protest took place in front of military headquarters, a high-security zone.
Soldiers used tear gas to break up a demonstration by supporters of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
On Monday, around 50 policemen stood down in favour of the protesters and refused to obey orders.
The president’s office denied reports that the army fired rubber bullets at the protesting police officers.
Last month the army arrested a senior criminal court judge, Judge Abdulla Mohamed.
The government alleged that the judge’s rulings – such as the release of an opposition activist detained without a warrant – were politically motivated.
It claimed the dispute with the judge was not an isolated incident, but indicative of a more deep-rooted problem with the Maldives judicial system and the checks and balances it has to ensure it stays independent.
Human rights groups added their voices to calls for the judge to be released – and, as matters grew increasingly heated, there were demands for the United Nations to be brought in to resolve the dispute.
Mohamed Nasheed was elected in 2008, in the first multi-party poll.
Since then, correspondents say, the country has been gripped by constitutional gridlock – because parties opposed to the president dominate parliament.
Mohamed Nasheed, a former human rights campaigner, beat long-time ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had been in power for 30 years and was widely seen as autocratic, in the country’s first multiparty election.
A one-time political prisoner, Mohamed Nasheed became a vocal figure in office on issues relating to the environment and climate change.
That pressure has intensified with the prospect of fresh elections, scheduled for next year. Opposition parties are jockeying for power as they try to extend their influence.
The wider question is how this crisis will affect the forthcoming elections – and what it says about the transition in the Maldives to mature democracy.
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