It is to lay the ground work, so to speak, for better targeted accidents. It couldn't just be irresponsibility on China's part, that would be too embarrassing for a such a superpower.
Bits of China's Long March 5B rocket have returned to Earth without inconveniencing anyone, but did irritate NASA enough for the agency to issue a sternly-worded statement. Bits of the bird landed in the Indian Ocean at 10:24 AM Sunday Beijing time, missing the Maldivian island of Kudahuvadhoo by about 45 kilometers. The …
Indeed, I think a lot of this is just a fundamentally different cultural attitude towards risk/reward. China just sees 70% chance of landing in water is good enough that they don't need to do anything further, given the important goals of furthering China's prowess as a space-faring nation.
Fundamentally this comes down to the different views cultures have on "individual liberty" vs "societal benefit". China is very much towards society, and the chance that an individual loses something for such a huge benefit to Chinese society is acceptable. America views individual liberty much more highly, the chances that an individual loses something because someone else was pursuing their goals is not acceptable.
I believe it was Arthur C Clarke who remarked on the distracting effect the female form might have on our male co-workers in zero gravity.
"It was bad enough when they were motionless; but when they started to move, and sympathetic vibrations set in, it was more than any warm-blooded male should be asked to take."
But we've come along way since the space age. Or then again ...
The difference is that was a planned re-entry, with a defined entry window and with little chance of causing damage due to the size and direction of the spent stage. The Chinese rocket was just left to fall where it would, without care or consideration for it's impact.
I'm saying there's a clear difference between a spent stage that goes slightly off course during a planned de-orbit and a spent stage that is abandoned to fall in some random spot. It's the difference between aiming your rubbish at the bin and having a bit escape, and throwing your rubbish out of a high speed car.
They didn't need to nail them to the cross of public shame because SpaceXs upper stage is supposed to stay under control until reentry (and has on many occasions). They're in the process of investigating and fixing what went wrong so it doesn't happen again. SpaceX has also already said "sorry, we try to not let it happen again", while China is pretending nothing happened, "what are we all on about?" and ohh look at the pretty stars up there.
"Those knowledgeable about re-entries, like astronomer Jonathan McDowell, tried to soothe the public with graphs proving a worst case land crash damage would be comparable to a small plane crash."
All very reassuring unless you happen to be under said light-plane crash when it comes down. At that point all bets are off. It may have been a small risk but it is still a risk. They were lucky that the 70% chance of falling into water occurred.
I get annoyed by these experts when they start spouting this sort of thing because it is trivialising something that is:
Can have serious consequences for those unlucky enough to be hit by it.
In Scott Manley's video on the topic, he mentioned that it's been speculated that the intention with this LM-5B launch was to do a controlled deorbit. As China has shown with their one controlled deorbit of their space station, it's certainly not something which they cannot do or have no interest in.
It's quite possible that the LM-5B in question had the necessary equipment to do a controlled deorbit, but that it didn't work. We'll never know, however, as the Chinese state space program (including Long March) is highly secretive. Maybe with upcoming launches we'll be able to tell what their intent there is.
I've seen that video as well. The only indication we've been given is, some Chinese viewers who watched the launch stream posted translations showing they heard one of the launch control operators make a call-out for a de-orbit maneuver to happen later, after the launch sequence.
The problem with this is, the PRC has been known to lie to their own people as well. It's entirely possible they just told their teams "We're going to de-orbit the booster later, it's a separate team you've never met before, do not worry comrade."
But from what I've gathered from Chinese culture, they are also against admitting failure, some kind of family/honor damage. So it could ALSO be possible that, in China's mind, even if they actually had the hardware in place and it failed, they think it's much better to just pretend like it never existed and the entire mission went to plan with 100% success. Somehow, in their minds that could be better than just coming out and telling the rest of the world "We were already trying to do that, but that part failed."
The problem here is the same as the problem on the surface. Somebody needs to be "in charge" in order to have the authority to make decisions and enforce them. If somebody else refuses to accept the legitimacy of this, then, all bets are off.
What's the betting America is going to come up with a framework where America is in charge?
Let's appoint somebody who doesn't have an angle in this, like, oh I dunno, Iceland. There you go. Iceland can run space, and neither America nor China nor Russia get to call the shots...
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