A sheep farmer from New South Wales in Australia made a quite an unusual find on his farm : a structure measuring approximately 2.4 m which was embedded in a remote part of its enclosure.
According to the first observations, the object seemed come from space. It also showed traces of a passage through the Earth’s atmosphere. According to experts in the field, it could be of a part ejected by a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.
This piece of spacecraft could be a part of the capsule used during the mission Crew-1 in November 2020. However, SpaceX has yet to confirm this.
The opinion of an expert
Brad Tucker, an astronomy researcher at the Australian National University, went to the scene to identify the object that had fallen from the sky. On Twitter, he posted that he was busy confirming that pieces of the “trunk” of the Crew-1 capsule had fallen well in paddocks in New South Wales.
Tucker pointed out that the debris showed signs of charring. According to him, this is what one expects to see on an object which has passed through the Earth’s atmosphere. He added that this event was very rare since this debris does not usually fall on land but rather in the ocean.
According to Tucker, this piece of debris probably came from the unpressurized portion of the spacecraft. It is potentially largest space debris recorded in Australia since 1979. That year, a piece of the space station NASA Skylab had fallen into bushes near Esperance in Western Australia.
Tucker later tweeted that the craft’s trunk remained in orbit after being ejected, but re-entered the atmosphere on July 9.
A potential hazard
It’s rare to hear of SpaceX space junk falling on solid ground. The company was indeed the first to develop reusable rockets that can land on an airstrip or on automated barges. As for the other ejected pieces, they are usually redirected to the ocean.
This incident which took place in Australia proves that there are always parameters which cannot be controlled. According to Rebecca Allen, an astronomer at Swinburne University of Technology, coins like the one found in Australia are designed to decay in the atmosphere. This is not the case with large debris. She indicated that it is quite disturbing and proves the fact that it is necessary to follow up on the debris.
According Jock Wallace, a local farmer, he did not hear the bang, but his daughters said it was very loud. Wallace said it was potentially dangerous to have large pieces of space junk arrive intact on the Earth’s surface.