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Cue The Scary Music: 'Space Ball' Crashes In Namibia

The space ball. What is it? i i

The space ball. What is it? Namibia's National Forensic Science Institute/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Namibia's National Forensic Science Institute/AFP/Getty Images
The space ball. What is it?

The space ball. What is it?

Namibia's National Forensic Science Institute/AFP/Getty Images

It's said to be made of a "metal alloy known to man," according to Agence France Presse. (We enjoyed that Spock-like line.)

But there's much that isn't known about what's being called a "space ball" that came down in Namibia last month: Such as where or what it came from.

Officials from NASA and the European Space Agency have been contacted.

Local authorities, according to AFP, don't think the object poses any danger. (Somewhat snide aside: Isn't that what local authorities always say?)

When the object hit some grassland, it reportedly left behind a 13-inches-deep, 12.5-feet-long skid mark.

This apparently isn't the only "space ball" to have come down in recent years. "Several such balls have dropped in southern Africa, Australia and Latin America in the past twenty years, authorities found in an Internet search," AFP says.

Space.com reminds us that "quite a bit of space junk has rained from the sky this year" and that more is on the way:

"In September ... NASA's defunct Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) ... plunged into the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean. Just a month later, Germany's 2.7-ton Roentgen Satellite (ROSAT) fell to Earth over the Indian Ocean. ... Russia's failed Phobos-Grunt Mars probe got stuck in Earth orbit shortly after its Nov. 8 launch, and it's been circling lower and lower ever since. Most experts predict the 14.5-ton spacecraft will come crashing down by mid-January."

Anyone out there know what it is?

(Uh, just to be clear, the news about this object is for real; but that question isn't really serious — unless you think so.)

Update at 12:45 p.m. ET. Or Could It Be One Of These?

Another comment, another strong possibility:

D Cz (DC1233) wrote:

This is a helium tank from the Russian Salyut 7-Cosmos 1686 (Kosmos 1686) spacecraft assembly

http://fernlea.tripod.com/tank.html

Update at 12:15 p.m. ET. An Answer?

Check out this note and link in the comment thread:

Al F (84driver) wrote:

These are propellant tanks from earlier US orbital vehicles. They have survived re-entry elsewhere before.

http://www.nasm.si.edu/collections/artifact.cfm?id=A19650278000

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