- Space junk was found scattered across several fields in Australia last month.
- The debris likely came from a SpaceX Crew-1 flight, an astrophysicist who examined the junk said.
- Scientists had been tracking 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 junk now believes it was from a SpaceX flight.
People near Dalgety, New South Wales, found three large pieces of debris, with the largest — a 10-foot-tall triangular structure — found planted firmly into the ground, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
The objects were scarred by scorch marks, consistent with reentry into the atmosphere, ABC reported.
Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist who inspected the debris, said in a video 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 debris could fall in the area around early July and the debris is a “good match” for the trunk’s flight path on July 8, the astronomer Jonathan McDowell tweeted.
“Having gone out there and looked at the bits myself, there is not a doubt in my mind it is space junk,” Tucker told Space.com.
‘I’m a farmer … what am I going to say to NASA?’
The sheep farmer Mick Miners discovered the 10-foot-tall object in his field on July 25, he told 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 finding to the local civil aviation safety authority, which told him to call NASA.
“I’m a farmer from Dalgety, what am I going to 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 investigating the objects to confirm their connection to space flights, ABC reported Monday.
“Eventually SpaceX, or at least the US, will have to make a declaration about 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 are minuscule, and scientists can track the larger pieces of space debris from Earth to predict where they will fall.
However, scientists have been sounding the alarm on space debris, saying that 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.
Its landing area was mostly made up of water and deserts, making the chance of it falling on inhabited areas very slim. Most of the debris burned on reentry, the China Manned Space Agency said, CNN reported.
Still, NASA has been critical of the approach, stating the debris “carry a significant risk of loss of life and property,” per CNN.
It was the second time China let debris from its huge rocket fall back to earth uncontrolled.