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Dear China Rocket

Abby Zimet


Because really what else would you expect these convulsive days, a massive Chinese rocket is hurtling uncontrolled back down to Earth this weekend while much of the world wonders, with a mix of actual anxiety and sheesh-what-next resignation, just where it will land and if they'll be under it when it does. Part of a new Chinese space station that went into orbit on April 29 but was then left to hurtle through space, the 23-ton, 100-foot Long March 5B rocket booster was expected to enter Earth's atmosphere from late Saturday night to early Monday morning. It's predicted to land in a laughably broad "risk zone" that encompasses much of the world - all the Americas south of New York, all of Africa and Australia, large swaths of Asia and Europe - thanks to its speed of 18,000 miles an hour, which means you'll know where it lands when it lands but it'll probably be in an ocean because that's most of the Earth's surface. One astrophysicist called the risk of it hitting you "incredibly tiny - I would not lose one second of sleep over this on a personal threat basis," but if the last few years have made you feel you'll never know what's coming down the pike, you can get updates here and here.

Space debris is nothing new - Earth's orbit is so littered with abandoned junk that many countries are working on establishing "best practices" to mitigate it - but the #ChineseRocket has caught the attention of an already paranoid,  pandemic-weary Twitter. "Just a normal Saturday night in 2021," noted one jittery survivor. Another, viewing experts' possible routes:  "One of those lines goes right over Nashville. I swear to God, if we have to check 'space debris catastrophe' off our bingo card after a tornado, pandemic, derecho..." Observers reported tracking its path like an Amazon order, bemoaned possibly surviving COVID only to die of "rocket dump," wondered if cops would shoot it down before it could land, offered weather forecasts - "Partly cloudy, with a chance of Chinese rocket" - and shared weird existential geographical riffs. Person 1: "Is Lebanon safe?" Person 2: "In general?" Mostly, there were suggestions for favored targets, including Target. Several people wanted the rocket to land on the Pentagon. Others thought it should hit the Chinese guy who wrote, "I am pray this rocket strikes the residence of a black person or homosexual." But the winner by a vengeful landslide was...."Mag-A-Loco."
#ChineseRocket "Dear China Rocket….we offer this as a sacrifice to save mankind."
Update: It landed in the Indian Ocean.

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email:

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