Astronomers discover a lunar rocket booster from the 60s that could return to Earth

Astronomers discover a lunar rocket booster from the 60s that could return to Earth

On August 19 of this year, astronomers using the Panoramic Surveying Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) Observatory in Hawaii discovered an object that would orbit Earth this fall. Designated as Entity 2020 SO, this item is now considered a rocket booster for NASA’s Surveyor 2 mission, which landed on the moon in 1966 during the Apollo era of the Cold War space race.

“I think this newly discovered object 2020 SO is an old rocket booster because it is very similar to Earth, almost circular, follows an orbit around the Sun in the same plane, and is slightly further away from the Sun at its furthest point. ,” said Dr. Paul Chodas, director of NASA’s Center for Near Object Research Comments on CNN explained.

“It is the kind of orbit that a separate rocket phase in lunar exploration follows as it passes through the moon and escapes into orbit around the sun. It’s unlikely that an asteroid will evolve into an orbit like this, but it’s not impossible,” he said.

According to Dr. Chodas, this particular type of event occurred only once in 2002 on the upper stage of Saturn V in Apollo 12. Of course, It’s still possible that SO in 2020 is really an asteroid., In this case, it is considered a mini moon while orbiting directly around the earth. But the discovery of an old rocket booster is simply considered’space junk’ and Joining more than 57,000 pieces of human junk currently being tracked By various institutions.

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“We should be able to detect the effect of the sun’s pressure on the motion of this object, so in 2020 we will get an indication of whether the SO is really a rocket body or not. It’s much less dense than an asteroid, and the slight pressure from sunlight causes enough movement changes to be detectable in the tracking data,” explains Dr. Chodas. Regardless of the designation, the 2020 SO will leave Earth orbit in February 2021.

America’s victory over the USSR, which landed the first humans on the moon in July 1969, generally masks the rest of the 1960s space race. The Russian probe first reached the lunar surface, one hitting it in 1959 and the other landing in February 1966. Surveyor 1 They landed on the moon on June 2, 1966 and collected photos for the assessment of landing vision for the Apollo program.; As described above, Surveyor 2 failed to complete the mission after boarding the Atlas LV-3C Centaur-D rocket.

Is an astronomer’s cosmic’garbage’ the treasure of a vintage cosmic collector? You decide. You can read more about NASA’s Surveyor mission below.

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