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Planetary RadioMarch 28, 2018

A Space Station Crashes to Earth

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On This Episode
Bill Ailor Head Shot
Bill Ailor

Aerospace Fellow and former Director of the Aerospace Corporation's Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies

Emily Lakdawalla 2017 headshot square serene
Emily Lakdawalla

Solar System Specialist, The Planetary Society

Casey Profile Picture Thumbnail
Casey Dreier

Chief Advocate & Senior Space Policy Adviser, The Planetary Society

Bruce Betts Head Shot 2015
Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager, The Planetary Society

Mat Kaplan
Mat Kaplan

Planetary Radio Host and Producer, The Planetary Society

By the time you hear this week’s episode, China’s Tiangong-1 may have spectacularly re-entered our planet’s atmosphere, raining metal on an unpredictable location. The Aerospace Corporation’s Bill Ailor, an expert on space debris, tells us there’s little to worry about, but bigger challenges are ahead in low Earth orbit. Bruce Betts also has his mind on the small space station. Emily Lakdawalla is back from the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference with much news to share. NASA finally has a budget for the year already underway! Casey Dreier breaks it down.

Bill Ailor

The Aerospace Corporation

Bill Ailor
Aerospace Fellow Bill Ailor enjoying a large piece of space debris displayed at the company’s Southern California campus.

Tiangong-1 space station


Tiangong-1 space station
A rendering of the Tiangong-1 space lab (right) docked with the Shenzhou-8 uncrewed spacecraft.

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Trivia Contest

This week's prizes include a vanishingly rare Planetary Society rubber asteroid! Also, a 200-point astronomy account.

This week's question:

What missions visited the Tiangong-1 space station?

To submit your answer:

Complete the contest entry form at or write to us at no later than Wednesday, April 4th at 8am Pacific Time. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

Last week's question:

How many Space Shuttle flights docked with the Mir space station?


The answer will be revealed next week.

Question from the week before:

Of the 88 modern constellations, which is the smallest in area? (By solid angle that they subtend in the sky.)


The smallest of the 88 modern constellations is Crux, also known as the Southern Cross.

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