An 88-pound piece of SpaceX spacecraft crashes on a farm in Canada

While inspecting his canola field, farmer Barry Sawchuk and his son came across something unusual: a charred piece of heavy metal.

Sawchuk’s farm is located near Ituna, a small town in Saskatchewan, Canada. The metal object is space debris, most likely from a SpaceX capsule.

As reported by CBCThis piece is approximately 8 feet wide and weighs 88 pounds.

Trunk module of the Dragon

The layers of the metal showed burned composite fibers and tissues, indicating it was space debris, but Sawchuk wasn’t entirely sure.

Shortly after this discovery, the incident attracted the attention of astronomy professors through local news reports.

Samantha Lawler, an astronomy professor at Regina University, examined the debris and suggested the fragments most likely came from the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, which reentered the atmosphere in February this year.

The capsule returned four astronauts from the private Ax-3 mission aboard the ISS.

The Dragon undocked on February 7 and the crew returned to Earth on February 9. The reusable crew capsule splashed safely off the coast of Daytona, Florida, while the disposable suitcase module was able to reenter on its own. This suitcase module probably ended up on Barry’s farm.

According to CBCthe Canadian farmer plans to sell the metal junk and donate the proceeds to the construction of a hockey arena in Saskatchewan.

Under international space law, countries must return all space debris to the country it came from. This means that the debris found on Barry’s farm should technically be sent back to the United States, where SpaceX is based. However, SpaceX could also decide to simply give away the space junk.

In July 2022, a similar incident occurred when SpaceX’s Dragon trunk module landed on an Australian farmland.

SpaceX debris on farmland in Australia. Brad Tucker

The growing problem of space debris

According to the European Space Agency (ESA), between 200 and 400 human-made objects, such as defunct satellites and spent rocket stages, reenter Earth’s atmosphere every year. Although most of these objects burn up on reentry, some larger portions may survive and reach Earth.

The current thinking suggests a very minimal possibility that an uncontrolled return would result in harm or casualties. But it is not completely ruled out.

Another incident that highlighted the growing risk of space debris was when a NASA ISS, discarded battery pallet debris, crashed into a Florida home. The debris could have easily hit the residents, but they barely escaped.

SpaceX continues to launch more missions year after year, indicating that space debris will only increase. According to ESA estimates, there are currently more than 36,500 junk objects in our orbit. With the space industry growing exponentially, you are more likely to be affected by such space debris.

Meanwhile, SpaceX has yet to confirm that the junk belongs to Dragon.

As space exploration progresses, who knows where the next piece of space junk will land.

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ABOUT THE EDITORIAL

Mrigakshi Dixit Mrigakshi is a science journalist who enjoys writing about space exploration, biology and technological innovations. Her professional experience spans both television and digital media, allowing her to learn a variety of storytelling formats. Her work has been featured in well-known publications including Nature India, Supercluster and Astronomy magazine. If you have any pitches in mind, don’t hesitate to email her.

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