China’s space agency recently confirmed that its Tiangong-1 space station is out of commission and is scheduled to fall back to Earth by late 2017.
However, they do not know exactly when it will come back, or where. Which means that, unlike a planned decommissioning of a space station or satellite that burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere in a controlled way, it’s possible that China lost control of Tiangong-1 and flaming pieces of it could theoretically land anywhere.
That would include the chance that the 9.4 ton, 34-foot-long craft could land in a populated area. But I have been assured online that there is little to worry about because “the Earth is a big place.”