Parts of rockets come crashing down on Earth after every launch, most of the time on uninhabited areas

Chinese rocket debris damages two houses in China

Spent rocket stages from the launcher carrying China’s first lunar lander Chang'e-3 have crashed down on two houses and damaged them, stirring the debate about insurance policies covering space activities.

The incident, reported by the China Daily newspaper on Wednesday, took place in a village in the Hunan province, neighbouring with south-western Sichuan where the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre is located.  

Though no one has been injured, some insurance experts have expressed their concerns about the possible fatal consequences of such incidents.

"Suppose the rocket wreckage hit a person; what would the authorities do?" the China Daily quoted Ren Zili, a professor of insurance laws at Beihang University.

A photograph in the newspaper showed a farmer standing by a desk-sized chunk of the rocket that had apparently smashed through his wooden roof. One person whose home was damaged received 10,800 yuan (£1,100) as compensation and the other received 5,200 yuan, it said.

Ren called for a programme to handle compensation in such cases, rather than dealing with each on an individual basis.

More than 180,000 residents of Sichuan and Hunan were relocated before the launch of the Chang'e-3 lunar probe, the paper said.

The number of launches in China has climbed to as many as 20 each year, Zhang Jianheng, deputy general manager with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Cooperation, told the official Xinhua news agency.

China is also studying ways to build recoverable rockets that leave no wreckage, to solve the problem once and for all.

China successfully completed its latest manned space mission in June, when three astronauts spent 15 days in orbit and docked with an experimental space laboratory critical in Beijing's quest to build a working space station by 2020.

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