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Who owns the debris from the Chinese space station Tiangong-1? © Getty Images

Who owns the debris from the Chinese space station Tiangong-1?

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Finders keepers!

Asked by: Tom Hampton, Townsville, Australia


Technically, spacecraft remain the property of the launching nation, but current international law is much more concerned with who is responsible for the damage and pollution at the crash site. When Skylab debris hit Australia in 1979, NASA allowed local residents to keep any pieces they found.

China lost control of Tiangong-1 in March 2016, so plans to deliberately de-orbit it were abandoned. Instead, its orbit decayed and most of the station burnt up during atmospheric re-entry on 2 April 2018 over the Pacific Ocean, north-west of Tahiti.


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Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.


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