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China assures everyone the odds of rocket debris causing harm are 'extremely low'

Chinese officials promise a rocket that's falling toward Earth probably won't cause any harm.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Friday officials are "closely observing" the Long March 5B rocket booster that's expected to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere this weekend, The Washington Post reports. Part of the Chinese rocket is "tumbling out of control in orbit" following a launch, The New York Times writes, but researchers are still not completely sure where the debris will land.

"This is standard international practice," Wang said Friday, per the Post. "The probability of causing harm to aviation activities and the ground is extremely low."

Wang also said that most of the rocket's components will burn up during re-entry. The U.S. Air Force Space Track Project on Friday projected debris will crash in a desert outside of Mary, Turkmenistan — but researchers also warned that "the projected site could be wildly off-base," the Post writes. "Its exact entry point into the Earth's atmosphere cannot be pinpointed until within hours of its re-entry which is expected around May 8," U.S. Space Command says.

NPR reports that scientists agree it's "unlikely" the booster "will actually hit someone," while adding that this still "doesn't mean there's no risk for humans." The Times may have put it best by writing, "You are almost certainly not going to be hit by a 10-story, 23-ton piece of a rocket hurtling back to Earth. That said, the chances are not zero."

Previously, debris from a Long March 5B rocket landed in Africa in 2020, leading NASA to criticize China.

"It was seemingly a successful launch, until we started getting information about a re-entry of a rocket body, a re-entry that was really dangerous," then-NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said. "It flew over population centers and it re-entered Earth's atmosphere. It could have been extremely dangerous. We're really fortunate in the sense that it doesn't appear to have hurt anybody."