While the world was worried about the downfall of the Chinese rocket that was moving out of control in a descending orbit, another case of space junk came to preoccupy Australia.
Metal objects likely from SpaceX’s manned mission to the International Space Station (ISS) found in pasture near Dalgety, New South Wales, Australia. So far, however, Elon Musk’s aerospace company has not confirmed that these are parts of the Crew Dragon spacecraft that returned to Earth in May 2021, after its first manned mission to the ISS.
But Bud Tucker, an astrophysicist who rushed to examine the objects, said it was likely a part of the Crew Dragon used to transport cargo and jettisoned shortly before the craft re-entered the atmosphere. Some of the wreckage has serial numbers that may allow it to be identified.
Experts had also estimated that the specific object, which remained in orbit after the return of Crew Dragon, would fall in Australia in early July. The area where they were found “matches” the path the space junk would have taken on July 8, Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, a well-known expert on tracking space objects, said via Twitter.
Indeed, local residents reported hearing a loud bang in the early hours of July 9, likely the crash of the debris as it moved at supersonic speed. All the debris was blackened, an indication that it had been exposed to extreme temperatures during its fall through the atmosphere.
If it is finally confirmed to be part of Crew Dragon, astrophysicist Bud Tucker said, it would be the largest piece of space debris to fall in Australia since the 1979 crash of the US Sky Lab space laboratory in western Australia.
The incident in Australia comes as China faces criticism over the lower part of a Long March missile that fell uncontrollably into the ocean off the Philippines on Saturday night.