Mick Miners was herding sheep in a four-wheeler last week when he tripped over a pointed black object that appeared to be more than 9 feet tall.
reminded him of a burned tree or a piece of agricultural machinery.
“Pretty scary, actually,” Miners, 48, said by phone Thursday from his roughly 2,000-hectare property in a remote corner of southeastern Australia.
NASA said SpaceX confirmed that the object that landed in Dalgety, Australia, was likely Dragon hardware from the discarded trunk segment of its Crew-1 spacecraft. Photo Brad Tucker via Reuters
“I was quite surprised,” he added.
“It’s not something you see every day on a sheep farm.”
The miners took a photo and sent it to a neighboring farmer, Jock Wallace, who had discovered an equally mysterious object on his farm a few days earlier.
It was space junk.
The US space agency, NASA, said in a statement that SpaceX confirmed that the object was probably the remaining part of the trunk segment discarded of a spaceship Dragon used during the return of the Crew-1 mission from the International Space Station in May of last year.
“If you think you have identified a piece of debris, do not try to manipulate or recover the debris,” NASA said.
Space debris refers to equipment in space that no longer works.
Most space debris burns up when it re-enters the atmosphere, and much of what remains often falls into the ocean.
However, with more spacecraft entering orbit, such as those from private companies like SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, ground impacts may occur more frequently. SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment.
Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said it’s not uncommon to find space debris on the ground after a uncontrolled re-entry.
“I was a little surprised that much of the trunk survived the heating process of re-entry,” McDowell said, but added that there was no indication that there was anything particularly risky about it.
He said that in the new commercial era for space exploration, it has been much more difficult to obtain technical information from private companies to assess risk.
With more information, “we might have a better assessment of, ‘Are we really unlucky, or should we expect this from all rocket re-entries if they happen overland?'”
The rocket’s trunk segment, which is used to carry cargo and also includes the spacecraft’s solar panels and radiators, is jettisoned from the capsule body shortly after combustion is complete as it departs from orbit.
“It usually burns up in the atmosphere over the open ocean, which represents a minimal risk for public safety,” the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.
Last week, after debris from a large Chinese rocket re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere over the Indian Ocean, the administrator of the POTBill Nelson issued a rebuke, saying China “did not share specific information about the trajectory when its Long March 5B rocket fell back to Earth.”
He added that all countries should “share this type of information with anticipation to enable reliable predictions of potential debris impact risk, especially for heavy vehicles, such as the Long March 5B, which carry a significant risk of loss of life and property.”
The possibility that debris from the rocket may have hit a populated area prompted people around the world to track its trajectory for days.
This was the third flight of the Long March 5B, China’s largest rocket, which made what is called a “uncontrolled reentry” back to Earth.
Last year, a malfunction caused the stage of a rocket SpaceX completed an uncontrolled re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere near Seattle in what appeared to be bright objects that lit up the night sky.
Pieces of debris from the burning rocket fell onto a farmer’s property in Washington state.
The debris had re-entered the atmosphere after 22 days in orbit.
The rural area of Australia where miners discovered the space debris on July 25 is about 100 miles south of the capital, Canberra.
Ron Lane, a restaurant owner in Dalgety City, said most people in the area, with the notable exception of himself, They were not there especially worried by the possibility of more space debris falling on them or their homes.
“If there are three that we know of, there could be others. 10 we don’t know” Lane said by phone from his restaurant, Tuscany In Dalgety.
Miners, who was born on the farm where he discovered the unidentified debris, said his neighbor, Wallace, had called authorities to report other debris he had found on his property in early July.
Public interest grew, Miners said, after Wallace called the Australian national broadcaster, which later reported on the farmers’ discoveries, saying three pieces of debris had been found.
“Then everyone found out and I received some 300 callssaid Miners, who has some 5,500 sheep, 100 cattle and 30 horses on his farm in the Numbla Vale district.
His own piece of rubble is almost 3 meters high by 40 centimeters
An Australian Space Agency official called on Thursday to say its experts planned to visit his property next week to “take a look”.
The miners said that so far they had enjoyed learning preliminary details about how the debris had fallen and were not sure what would happen next.
Said I’d be”happy to keep it“, but that he was also interested in “a little compensation”, if the space agencies or the company wanted him back.
Sa’id Mosteshar, a professor of international space law and director of the London Institute of Space Law and Policy, said a person could claim compensation only if the debris damaged them or caused them some harm. property.
“I guess they’ll want it back,” Miners added.
“I don’t know. I don’t know anything about it. Like I said, I’m a sheep farmer.
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