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Elon Musk’s space litter lucky to miss farmers at NSW sheep station

Daniela Pizzirani, August 2, 2022 7:00PM Kids News

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A 3m section of trunk from Elon Musk’s SpaceX Crew-1 craft has dramatically plunged into a sheep paddock in the Snowy Mountains, surprising farming families who were luckily left unhurt. Picture: supplied. media_cameraA 3m section of trunk from Elon Musk’s SpaceX Crew-1 craft has dramatically plunged into a sheep paddock in the Snowy Mountains, surprising farming families who were luckily left unhurt. Picture: supplied.

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A 3m piece of space junk from one of Elon Musk’s spacecrafts has crashed into a NSW property, after travelling at about 25,000km per hour back to Earth.

The object was part of the SpaceX Crew-1 craft and was found in a Snowy Mountains sheep paddock owned by farmer Mick Miners.

Mr Miners said he discovered the space junk, which ­resembled a tree from a distance, on his property after his family heard a loud bang.

Elon Musk spaceX. Picture: Supplied. media_cameraFarmer Mike Miners, pictured, said he discovered the space junk on his property after his family heard a loud bang. Elon Musk SpaceX. Picture: Supplied.

The bang was also reportedly heard by residents throughout southern NSW, with some saying they saw an explosion.

Neighbouring farmer Jock Wallace also reported a similar foreign object had torpedoed* into his land.

Luckily for both farmers, the junk landed away from their family homes.

Australian National University space expert Dr Brad Tucker was called by authorities to inspect the object on Mr Miners’ property.

media_cameraAn eerie, strangely sculptural sight after torpedoing back to Earth, the space junk speared into a property not far from the banks of the Snowy River in NSW. Pictures: Monaro Police District/Facebook

“This is most definitely space junk which was part of the SpaceX Crew-1 trunk*,” he told radio station 2GB.

“SpaceX has this capsule* that takes humans into space, but there is a bottom part … so when the astronauts* come back, they leave the bottom part in space before the capsule lands.”

The spacecraft, which costs $62 million per launch, has started to deorbit* after almost two years in space.

SpaceX licencie des salariés ayant préparé une lettre critiquant Elon Musk media_camera“Who me?” – SpaceX founder Elon Musk might have some explaining to do, after the trunk of his SpaceX Crew-1 craft crashed into a sheep paddock in the Snowy Mountains. Picture: Brendan Smialowski/AFP

Dr Tucker said the craft was originally planned to break apart and land in the ocean.

“We saw most pieces land in the ocean, but clearly some hadn’t … you can clearly see charring*, which you would expect from re-entry.

“It is very rare to see because they don’t usually land on land but in the ocean.

“People often think they find small pieces of space junk, but they would burn up on re-entry, so it’s more likely to be large pieces like this.”

GLOSSARY

  • torpedoed: when something hits, strikes, impacts, destroys or attacks
  • trunk: nonrecoverable section carrying SpaceX craft’s solar panels and unpressurised cargo
  • capsule: smaller section or space vehicle that returns people, animals and equipment to Earth
  • astronauts: person trained to travel in space beyond Earth’s atmosphere
  • deorbit: commence descent phase, deliberately depart from orbit
  • charring: signs of burning or scorching

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. How fast was the space junk travelling?
  2. How long is the piece of debris that landed in Mr Miners’ paddock?
  3. Who owns SpaceX?
  4. The debris came from which section of the spacecraft?
  5. How much does each SpaceX launch cost?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Space junk catastrophe
It’s concerning to think a large piece of a spacecraft can fall to earth at 25,000 km an hour. It would have been a very different scenario if it had landed in the middle of a city.

Write a news report about this incident imagining it fell in the middle of the nearest big city to you. Imagine it was the same size, same circumstances and from the same spacecraft, but it landed at a busy time in a busy place. In your article, explain what happened and what damage was caused. Also think of a catchy headline for your article. If time permits, read out to class or display for others to read.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science; Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Space junk usually orbits around the atmosphere or lands in the ocean, which is obviously safer than in populated areas on Earth.

Do you think debris landing in water could damage oceans and the environment in any way?

Is it ideal to have large pieces of space junk landing in our oceans?

What could be done to change this?

What do you think happens to all the satellites we have sent into space? Is it going to get more and more crowded?

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science; Personal and Social; Critical and Creative Thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
What happens next?
Imagine this story is part of an animated series made up of three cartoons. The three cartoons tell the complete story and this article is only Part 1. Think about what the rest of the story could be and draw the next two cartoons that tell the story.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Visual Arts; Visual Communication Design; Critical and Creative Thinking

Extra Reading in space