Three pieces of space junk found in Australia have been linked to a mission by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, the country’s space agency said.
“The agency has confirmed the debris is from a SpaceX mission and continues to engage with our counterparts in the U.S., as well as other parts of the Commonwealth and local authorities as appropriate,” an Australian Space Agency spokesperson told Australia’s public broadcaster ABC.
Local police and space agency workers on Saturday inspected two pieces of debris found by local farmers earlier last month in the area of Snowy Mountains in New South Wales. Police said a third one had also been recovered.
The space junk came from SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, which launched in November 2020 to go to the International Space Station. Residents reportedly heard a loud noise on July 9, which some attributed to the spacecraft reentering Earth, ABC said.
Space debris would normally either burn up or fall into the ocean upon reentry, The Times of London said.
Local farmer Mick Miners said he stumbled upon a piece of debris last month and reached out to another farmer nearby who had also found one in his property.
Wallace told Australia’s ABC he got in touch with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, which in turn redirected him to NASA.
“I’m a farmer from Dalgety, what am I going to say to NASA?” Wallace asked.
A third piece was later recovered and photographed by another resident in mid-July, ABC reported.
Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist from the Australian National University, reportedly contacted the space agency about the findings, according to The Guardian.
Tucker told The Guardian he thinks the debris originated from the unpressurised trunk of the spacecraft, and expects more pieces to be found “over the coming weeks to months to even years.”
Australia’s Space Agency has urged residents to contact SpaceX department if they find more space junk and “not attempt to handle it.”
“They should contact the SpaceX Debris Hotline at 1-866-623-0234 or at email@example.com,” they said.
SpaceX has not commented on the findings.