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China's internet is divided over doomed satellite Tiangong-1

Has China lost control of its space station? Western media says yes, the country's government says no -- and internet users aren't sure who to believe.

Zoey Chong Reporter
Zoey is CNET's Asia News Reporter based in Singapore. She prefers variety to monotony and owns an Android mobile device, a Windows PC and Apple's MacBook Pro all at the same time. Outside of the office, she can be found binging on Korean variety shows, if not chilling out with a book at a café recommended by a friend.
Zoey Chong
2 min read

China's space 'palace' is set to "retire" by 4 April, according to estimates given by the China Manned Space Agency.


After the country lost control of it, China's Tiangong-1 space station is expected by experts to crash out in a blaze of glory on April 1. China's internet is going wild over the satellite -- but for a different reason.

While foreign publications have reported a likely loss of control as reason for Tiangong-1's impending self-destruction, local media is saying the space station is "retiring" after having accomplished its mission.

Watch this: Tiangong-1 space station could crash on April 1 (no joke)

Internet users have engaged in a debate on Weibo, China's Twitter-equivalent. Some are doubtful of the reason given by China, lambasting local publications for not reporting the "truth" -- that China has lost control of Tiangong-1. Others are accusing the non-believers of being "Chinese traitors" that are never happy for the country's successes, and foreign media for "spreading lies" to attract readership.

Experts in the country are also dismissing speculation that the Tiangong-1 is going out of control as "overthinking" matters, according to Chinese state-owned media, adding that the National Space Centre says it was designed to leave its orbit at the end of its life.

State-run media in China is seen as a propaganda tool of the Chinese Communist Party and typically defends state interests. News that is deemed critical of or embarrassing to authorities -- such as a possible failure of the Tiangong-1 -- are kept out of the public eye.

Still, numerous Weibo users are paying tribute to Tiangong-1 and remembering it through photos, calling it "China's pride." One comment also thanked the team behind the space station for its hard work.

A handful, though, are turning the event into a joke: "Why can't we give the space station to… kids that can't afford to go to school," wondered one user. Another suggested Tiangong-1 could be taken by "weishang," referring to people who do business on Chinese social messaging platform, WeChat.

The return of Tiangong-1 is expected to be sometime between 31 March to 4 April, according to a statement released by the China Manned Space Agency. The European Space Agency, however, gave a narrower range of prediction, estimating that it will crash over the Easter weekend.

Watch this: Watch SpaceX launch its 50th Falcon 9 rocket

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