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重返地球的“天宫一号”将坠落何处?

更新时间:2018-1-5 20:23:15 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

A Space Station Is Expected to Fall Out of the Sky. You’ll Probably Be Fine.
重返地球的“天宫一号”将坠落何处?

Sometime around the start of spring, a 9.4-ton Chinese space station is expected to come hurtling back to earth.

预计大约在初春的某个时候,一个9.4吨的中国空间站将会飞驰冲回地球。

The space station, Tiangong 1, is predicted to make that return trip in mid-March, give or take a few weeks, according to an analysis by the Aerospace Corporation, a federally funded research and development center in California. But don’t worry: Odds are no one will be hurt.

根据加利福尼亚一个联邦政府资助的研究和发展中心“美国航空航天公司”(Aerospace Corporation)的分析报告,“天宫一号”空间站预计将于3月中旬开始返程,需要花费几周时间。但别担心:应该没人受伤。

“It most probably will not harm anyone,” said Andrew Abraham, a member of the team behind the analysis. “The odds of being struck by a piece of this space station as it’s re-entering are exceptionally tiny.”

“这十有八九不会伤到人,”该分析报告的幕后团队成员安德鲁·亚伯拉罕(Andrew Abraham)说。“这个空间站重返地球时人们被碎片击中的概率极小。”

While the researchers are confident that humanity will likely be spared, their ability to precisely forecast the re-entry is limited.

虽然研究人员相信人类或能幸免于难,但他们对重返地球大气层的精准预计能力非常有限。

Any prediction of when an object will return from space must factor in multiple variables, including the density of the upper atmosphere and the object’s speed, location, orientation and physical properties, the researchers wrote.

研究人员写道,有关物体何时从太空返回的任何预测都必须将各种变量考虑在内,包括上层大气密度和物体速度、位置、方向及其物理属性。

And because timing dictates the location of re-entry, predicting where an object falls is even harder.

而且因为重返地球的位置是由时机决定,要预测物体会在哪里陨落就更加困难。

”If you’re off by half an hour, you’re on the other side of the planet,” said Ted Muelhaupt, another member of the Aerospace team.

“如果差了半个小时,就会到地球的另一边,”航空航天公司团队的另一位成员泰德·米尔豪普特(Ted Muelhaupt)说道。

Experts made such a miscalculation in 1979, when the descent of the American space station Skylab captured attention around the world. The station re-entered the atmosphere about half an hour later than expected, landing in the Australian desert instead of over the Pacific, as predicted.

1979年,在那次吸引了全球目光的美国“天空实验室”(Skylab)空间站陨落中,专家们就给出了这样的误判。空间站重新进入大气层的时间比预期晚了半个小时,并没有像预计的那样落入太平洋,而是坠入了澳大利亚的沙漠。

Tiangong 1, which has been unmanned for more than four years and whose name means heavenly palace, could fall anywhere on about two-thirds of the earth’s surface, although it is most likely to land in one of two bands that encircle the globe parallel to the Equator, the researchers said.

研究人员表示,名字意为天上宫殿的“天宫一号”已经在无人驾驶状态下工作了四年多,地球上三分之二的地表都可能是它的陨落地点,但它最可能陨落在平行于赤道、环绕地球的两个地带之一。

One of those regions, in the Southern Hemisphere, is almost entirely over water, though it includes Tasmania and parts of New Zealand, Chile and Argentina. The other, in the Northern Hemisphere, covers more land, cutting across swaths of the United States, Europe and Asia.

其中一个区域位于南半球,几乎全被水体覆盖,但范围内还有塔斯马尼亚和新西兰、智力、阿根廷的部分地区。另一个区域在北半球,有更多陆地覆盖,横跨了美国、欧洲和亚洲。

But even in those areas, the likelihood that anyone will be hit by part of the station is incredibly low.

但即使在这些地区,人们被空间站的碎片击中的概率也非常低。

“The probability that a specific person (i.e., you) will be struck by Tiangong 1 debris is about one million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot,” Aerospace noted in the analysis.

“某一个人(也就是说你)被‘天宫一号’残骸击中的概率比你中威力球彩票大奖的几率还小100万倍,”航空航天公司在分析报告中写道。

Re-entry events like the one predicted for Tiangong 1 are common: Thousands of objects have re-entered the earth’s atmosphere over the past half-century, according to Aerospace. That includes dozens of large objects each year.

与“天宫一号”类似的重返大气层事件很常见:美国航空航天公司称,在过去的半个世纪里,已有成千上万个物体重新返回了地球大气层。其中每年都有数十个大型物体。

As they come flying back to earth, the objects compress the air beneath them, generating intense heat, up to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the researchers. That heat and pressure can cause the objects to break apart, melt and vaporize, leaving little left to reach the earth’s surface.

据研究人员说,在飞回地球时,物体会挤压下方的空气,产生可达3000华氏度(约合1650摄氏度)的高温。物体会在这样的温度和压力下分解、融解、蒸发,在抵达地表时所剩无几。

“We know that most of it will burn up in the atmosphere as it starts to break apart,” said Roger Thompson, another member of the Aerospace team behind the analysis.

“我们知道一旦它开始分解,大部分都会在大气层中烧毁,”航空航天公司该研究的幕后团队另一名成员罗杰·汤普森(Roger Thompson)说。

Even when objects survive the fall, they rarely cause substantial harm. Only one person is known to have been hit by such debris: Lottie Williams of Oklahoma was struck without injury by a small chunk of a rocket booster in 1997.

即使物体能在陨落中有所遗留,它们也几乎不会造成实质性的伤害。已知只有一人曾被此类残骸击中:俄克拉荷马市的洛蒂·威廉姆斯(Lottie Williams)曾在1998年被一小块火箭助推器击中,但没有受伤。

The largest manufactured object to return to earth was the 134-ton Mir space station, which crashed into stormy waters about 1,800 miles east of New Zealand in March 2001. Tiangong 1, at 39 feet in length, doesn’t even rank among the 15 largest objects to make re-entry, according to Aerospace statistics.

重返地球的最大人造物体是134吨的“和平号”太空站(Mir),它于2001年3月坠入新西兰以东1800英里(约合2900公里)波涛汹涌的水域。按航空航天公司的数据,39英尺长(约合11.8米)的“天宫一号”的大小在重返地球的物体中都排不上前15名。

The station was launched in late 2011 with plans for it to remain in orbit for just two years. It was visited twice by Chinese astronauts, most recently in 2013, but has been slowly falling back to earth since its last altitude adjustment in late 2015, according to Aerospace.

这个设计在轨仅两年的空间站发射于2011年年末。据美国航空航天公司称,中国宇航员曾两次进入这个空间站,最近一次是在2013年,但自2015年年末最后一次高度调整后就开始慢慢向地球回落。

A version of the station appeared in the 2013 movie “Gravity,” in which it suffered a similar fate.

这个空间站的改编版本曾在2013年的电影《地心引力》(Gravity)中出现,电影里它也经历了相似的命运。

“You’re losing altitude, Tiangong,” Ryan Stone, the movie’s protagonist, portrayed by Sandra Bullock, said to herself in a climactic scene. “You keep dropping and you’re going to kiss the atmosphere.”

“你的高度下降了,天宫,”桑德拉·布洛克(Sandra Bullock)饰演的电影主角瑞安·斯通(Ryan Stone)在高潮一幕中自言自语道。“你一直在往下掉,你就快亲上大气层了。”

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