Astronomers are discovering a possible 1960s moon rocket returning to Earth

Astronomers are discovering a possible 1960s moon rocket returning to Earth

On August 19 of this year, astronomers using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System Observatory (Pan-STARRS) in Hawaii discovered an object heading to enter Earth’s orbit this fall. Designated as the 2020 SO object, the element is now believed to be a rocket boost from NASA’s Surveyor 2 mission that crashed on the moon in 1966 during the Apollo era in the Cold War space race.

“I suspect this newly discovered 2020 SO is an ancient rocket booster because it follows an orbit around the sun very similar to Earth’s, nearly circular, at the same plane, and a little further away from the sun at the farthest point,” Dr. Paul Shodas, director of the NASA Center for Near Object Studies Earth , He explained in the comments to CNN.

“This is exactly the type of orbit a rocket phase that has separated from a lunar mission will follow, once it passes close to the moon and escapes into orbit around the sun. It is unlikely that the asteroid has evolved into an orbit like this, but it is not impossible.

This specific type of event happened only once before, specifically in 2002 with the Saturn V top stage of Apollo 12, according to Dr. Chodas. Definitely, There is still a possibility that the 2020 SO could be an asteroid, In this case, it is considered a young moon while in direct Earth orbit. However, the discovery of an old rocket booster could be considered “space junk” Join over 57,000 pieces of human debris currently being tracked By different entities.

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“In a month or so, we will have an indication of whether 2020 SO is really a rocket object or not, as we must begin to discover the effect of sunlight pressure on the motion of that object: if it is indeed a rocket, and Dr. Choudas explained that the asteroid’s density would be Much less dense than the asteroid, and the light pressure from sunlight will cause enough change in its motion that we can detect it in the tracking data Regardless of the name, the 2020 SO will leave Earth’s orbit in February 2021.

The victory of the United States over the Soviet Union in the landing of the first humans on the moon in July 1969 generally overshadows the rest of that part of the 1960s space race. The two Russian probes reached the surface of the Moon first, with one colliding in 1959 and the other landing in February 1966. It landed on the moon’s surface on June 2, 1966 to collect images to assess the landing scene of the Apollo program; Surveyor 2, as detailed above, never completed its mission after launch aboard an Atlas LV-3C Centaur-D rocket.

An astronomer’s “trash bin” is an ancient space collector’s treasure? It’s your decision. You can see more about the NASA Surveyor missions below:

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