A joint Sino-French mission aimed at studying Gamma-ray bursts turned hazardous as toxic rocket debris fell over a populated area early Saturday. The Long March 2C rocket, carrying the Space Variable Objects Monitor (SVOM) satellite, launched from Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 3am on June 22.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) swiftly declared the launch a success shortly after liftoff. SVOM, a collaborative effort between China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) and France’s CNES, is designed to detect high-energy electromagnetic radiation from Gamma-ray bursts using advanced scientific payloads.

However, the launch did not go without incident closer to Earth. A video shared on social media platform X by China’s National Asia Spaceflight captured the moment when a rocket booster crashed into a populated area, prompting residents to run for safety.

Concerns over the hypergolic propellant used in the Long March rocket were echoed in comments on the video.

One social media user highlighted the contrast in global priorities, stating, “We’re in a modern-day space race. China is dropping toxic rockets on their citizens while we are spending months determining if we can put clean water in wetlands. Hopefully, our lead and SpaceX’s drive are enough.”

Another comment condemned the handling of spent rocket stages, stating, “They need to be very ashamed of themselves. The absolute dismissal of any safety in the disposal of spent stages is disgusting!”

Amidst these criticisms, a third user remarked, “I’m no rocket engineer, but I’m pretty sure that rocket is going in the wrong direction.”

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