Huge Chinese Rocket Parts Fall on Village, Spewing Toxic Chemicals

Reckless Endangerment

Images and a terrifying video circulating on social media show what appears to be debris from a Chinese rocket coming crashing down over a village in southwest China, resulting in a massive cloud of unnervingly yellow smoke.

One clip shows distressed villagers running away from a giant piece of rocket dropping out of the sky, leaving a bright orange trail of smoke in its wake in the distance.

The footage was shared not long after a Long March 2C rocket launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the country's Sichuan province, delivering a satellite into orbit.

It's far from the first time we've seen debris from such a launch making an uncontrolled descent over populated areas. In January, for instance, a pair of rocket boosters of a Chinese Long March 3B rocket crashed down in a forested and inhabited area, erupting in massive fireballs.

The phenomenon has led to outrage from the international space community, with NASA administrator Bill Nelson releasing a statement back in 2021 accusing China of "failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris."

Worse yet, as CNN reports, local residents were "strictly forbidden" to "spread relevant videos online" in a notice, suggesting officials are trying to downplay the very real dangers of the chaotic and fast-moving space program.


Raining Rockets

It's unclear if anybody got hurt in the latest incident. Eyewitnesses told CNN that "there was a pungent smell and the sound of an explosion." Local villagers were also told to scatter and observe the open sky ahead of the launch to make sure they wouldn't get hurt.

The yellow and orange smoke being expelled by the rocket debris is "extremely toxic and carcinogenic," as Stockholm International Peace Research Institute senior researcher Markus Schiller told CNN. "Every living being that inhales that stuff will have a hard time in the near future."

Instead of launching their rockets from inland like China, NASA and the European Space Agency launch their rockets from the coast, where rocket parts have a much higher chance of harmlessly dropping into the ocean.

SpaceX has also developed reusable rocket boosters that return to the launch pad, foregoing these risks almost entirely.

Meanwhile, China has repeatedly made headlines for allowing its rockets to plummet down over inhabited areas, a considerable liability and embarrassment to its ambitious space program.

It's a callous approach to delivering payloads into orbit, especially considering the many ways such risks could be averted.

"I expect that we’ll see something like that for quite a while, for many years to come," Schiller told CNN.

More on China's rockets: Videos Show Chinese Rocket Parts Raining Down, Exploding