'We don't have a plan' to shoot down Chinese rocket: Pentagon chief

The Long March 5B rocket blasted off from China's Hainan island on April 29, carrying the Tianhe module, which contains what will become living quarters for three crew members on a permanent Chinese space station.

The Tianhe launch was the first of 11 missions needed to complete the station.

Speaking with reporters, Austin said the hope was the rocket would land in the ocean and that the latest estimate was that it would come down between Saturday and Sunday.

Video Transcript

DAVID: This is for both of you. What is the latest estimate of when and where this Chinese rocket will come down? Do you consider it a potential threat to the US? And do you have a plan for shooting it down, if necessary?

LLOYD AUSTIN: Thanks, David. The latest estimates-- estimates that I've seen is somewhere between the eighth and ninth, you know, and the experts are still working on that. At this point, we don't have a plan to shoot the rocket down. We're hopeful that-- that it will land in-- in a place where it won't-- won't harm anyone, hopefully in the ocean or someplace like that.

I think this speaks to the fact that, for those of us who operate in the space domain, that there is a requirement-- there should be a requirement-- to-- to operate in a safe and thoughtful mode and make sure that we take those kinds of things into-- into consideration as we plan and conduct operations.

DAVID: Do you even have the capability to shoot it down?

LLOYD AUSTIN: David, we-- as you know, we have the capability to do a lot of things. But we don't have a plan to-- to shoot it down, as we speak.