Mick Miners was tending sheep in his four-wheeler last week when he came across a sharp, black object over nine feet tall. It reminded him of either a burning tree or farm equipment.
“It’s actually pretty scary,” Miners, 48, said Thursday by phone from about 5,000 acres in a remote corner of southeastern Australia.
“I was pretty surprised,” he added. “It’s not something you see every day on a sheep ranch.”
The miners took pictures and sent them to neighboring farmer Jock Wallace. Jock Wallace stumbled across a similar mysterious object on his farm a few days ago.
It was space debris.
In a statement, NASA, the U.S. space agency, said the object was the remnants of a trunk segment that had been jettisoned from the Dragon spacecraft used during the Crew-1 mission, which returned from the International Space Station last May. SpaceX has confirmed that it is likely that “If you think you have identified debris, do not handle or retrieve it,” he said.
Space debris is equipment that no longer functions in space. Most space debris burns up on re-entry into the atmosphere, and much of what remains often falls into the ocean. But as more spacecraft enter orbit, such as those of private companies like SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, impacts on land may become more frequent. 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 land after uncontrolled re-entry.
“I was a little surprised that so much of the trunk survived the re-entry heating process,” McDowell said, but added that there were no indications that anything in the trunk was particularly dangerous. said that in the new commercial age of space exploration, it has become much more difficult to obtain technical information from private companies to assess risks. or should we expect this from every trunk reentry if it occurs on the ground?” ”
The trunk segment, which is used to carry cargo and also contains the spacecraft’s solar arrays and radiators, is jettisoned from the body of the capsule shortly after burning is complete when deorbited. “It would normally burn up in the open ocean atmosphere with minimal risk to public safety,” the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.
After debris from a large Chinese rocket re-entered Earth’s atmosphere over the Indian Ocean last week, NASA administrator Bill Nelson said China “had no specific trajectory information as the Long March 5B rocket fell to Earth. I didn’t share it,” he complained. He added that all countries “need to share this kind of information in advance to enable reliable prediction of potential debris impact risks.”
People around the world followed its trajectory for days as debris from the rocket likely hit a populated area. This was his third flight of China’s largest rocket, the Long March 5B, which brought the so-called “uncontrolled re-entry” to Earth.
Last year, a SpaceX rocket stage glitched and re-entered Earth’s atmosphere out of control near Seattle, appearing as a bright object lighting up the night sky. Fragments of the burning rocket wreckage fell on a farmer’s property in Washington state. The debris re-entered the atmosphere 22 days after her in orbit.
The Australian rural area where miners found space debris on July 25 is about 100 miles south of the capital, Canberra.
Ron Lane, who runs a restaurant in the town of Dalgety, said most people in the area, except themselves, are not particularly concerned about the possibility of space debris landing on them or their homes. rice field.
“If there are three that we know, there may be another ten that we don’t,” Lane said over the phone from his restaurant, Tuscany in Dalgeti.
A miner born on the farm who found unidentified debris said his neighbor Wallace called authorities to report other debris he found on his property earlier in July. Public interest increased after Wallace called Australia’s national broadcaster, according to Reuters.
“Then everyone noticed and I got about 300 calls,” said Miners, whose farm in Numbla Vale district has about 5,500 sheep, 100 cows and 30 horses. Told.
His own debris is about 10 feet tall by 1.3 feet, he said, an Australian Space Agency official said on Thursday, whose experts will visit his property next week to “take a look”. said it was planned.
Miners enjoyed learning preliminary details about how the debris landed, and said they didn’t know what would happen next.
He said he would be “happy to keep it” but would also be interested in “a little compensation” if the space agency or company wanted it back.
Saeed Mosteshar, professor of international space law and director of the London Institute of Space Policy and Law, says that a person can only be displaced if the wreckage damages him or her, or causes him or her any damage. said they could claim compensation.property.
“They will want it back,” Miners added. “I don’t know. I know nothing about it. Like I said, I’m a shepherd.”
© 2022 New York Times Company