Planetary Radio • Mar 28, 2018

A Space Station Crashes to Earth

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On This Episode

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Bill Ailor

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

Casey dreier tps mars

Casey Dreier

Chief of Space Policy for The Planetary Society

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Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society

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Mat Kaplan

Senior Communications Adviser and former Host of Planetary Radio for 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
Bill Ailor Aerospace Fellow Bill Ailor enjoying a large piece of space debris displayed at the company’s Southern California campus.Image: The Aerospace Corporation
Tiangong-1 space station
Tiangong-1 space station A rendering of the Tiangong-1 space lab (right) docked with the Shenzhou-8 uncrewed spacecraft.Image: CMSA

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 [email protected] 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.