BEIJING — China’s government defended its handling of a rocket booster that burned up over the Indian Ocean and said Monday it was unfairly being held to different standards than the U.S. and other space programs.
The administrator of the American space agency and others accused Beijing of acting recklessly by allowing its rocket to fall to Earth seemingly uncontrolled Sunday after carrying a space station into orbit.
The Chinese space agency said most of the 100-foot-long main stage of the Long March 5B rocket burned up above the Maldives.
“China has been closely tracking its trajectory and issued statements on the re-entry situation in advance,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said. “There has been no report of harm on the ground.”
The rocket carried the main section of the Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony, space station into orbit on April 29. China plans 10 more launches to complete construction of the station.
Booster rockets usually fall back to Earth soon after takeoff. China’s space agency hasn’t said why the Long March was sent temporarily into orbit.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson accused China in a statement of “failing to meet responsible standards” in handling space debris.
Hua, the Chinese spokesperson, complained that Beijing was being treated unfairly.