Space debris was found scattered across several fields in Australia last month.
The debris likely came from a SpaceX Crew-1 flight, said an astrophysicist who examined the debris.
Scientists had traced the flight path of the debris from Earth.
Australian farmers mysteriously found space debris scattered across their fields last month. An astrophysicist who examined the debris now believes it was from a SpaceX flight.
People near Dalgety, New South Wales, found three large pieces of debris, with the largest – a 10ft tall triangular structure – found planted firmly in the ground, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
The objects were marked with scorch marks, consistent with re-entry into the atmosphere, ABC reported.
Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist who inspected the debris, said in a video that they were likely fragments of the trunk of a SpaceX Dragon aircraft used during the Crew-1 mission in 2020. Some of the fragments had serial numbers, Tucker said.
Scientists had known that debris from the Dragon spacecraft could fall in the area around early July, and the debris is a “good match” for the trunk’s flight path on July 8, tweeted astronomer Jonathan McDowell.
“Having gone out and looked at the pieces myself, there is no doubt in my mind that it is space junk,” Tucker told Space.com.
“I’m a farmer…what am I going to tell NASA?”
Sheep farmer Mick Miners spotted the 10-foot-tall object in his field on July 25, he told the ABC. His neighbor, Jock Wallace, had also found debris in his field the week before, and people in the area also reported hearing a loud bang on July 9, ABC reported.
Wallace first reported the discovery to the local civil aviation safety authority, who told him to call NASA.
“I’m a farmer from Dalgety, what should I say to NASA?” Wallace told ABC.
He also said of the debris: “If it landed on your house, it would make a hell of a mess.”
The Australian Space Agency and New South Wales police are examining the objects to confirm their connection to spaceflight, the ABC reported on Monday.
“Ultimately, SpaceX, or at least the United States, will have to make a statement whether they want to keep it or have it returned, or not,” Tucker said, according to ABC.
Scientists warn about space debris
The risk of space debris falling on a human is minimal, and scientists can track the larger pieces of space debris from Earth to predict where they will fall.
However, scientists have raised the alarm about space debris, saying the problem will only get worse as space travel intensifies.
The news comes as debris released by a Chinese Long March 5B rocket came back down to Earth uncontrolled on Saturday.
The landing area consisted mostly of water and deserts, making the chance of it falling on inhabited areas very small. Most of the debris burned on re-entry, the China Manned Space Agency said, CNN reported.
Still, NASA has been critical of the approach, stating that the debris “carries a significant risk of loss of life and property,” according to CNN.
It was the second time China let debris from its huge rocket fall back to Earth uncontrolled.
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