The piece of space debris left in a 1966 mission passed over Earth at the beginning of December. This junk was a composition of the agency’s old rocket that was heading to the moon.
The space debris now dubbed 2020 SO appeared to be an asteroid in the past. However, further analysis by PAN-STARRS via telescopic observation revealed that the object had no characteristics of the cosmic world. This conclusion came true because the orbit and the nature of the material did not fit to be a part of the solar system or the celestial world.
Marco Michelli of the European Space Agency’s Near-Earth Object Coordination Centre stated that they have been pursuing the object for some days before concluding that it is a degenerate material from a space mission.
Michelli and his colleagues discovered that the object was artificial since it displayed features of an item roaming freely in space. The item appeared to be making an orbit as its reaction to the pressure coming from the solar wind pressing the object across the solar system. These scientists noted that the object was very light to be considered a natural happening.
After thorough analysis, the scientists concluded that the material was a piece of the top stage coming from the Surveyor 2 lander of NASA that failed to dock on the moon in 1966. The mission was unsuccessful because the rocket outpaced the trajectory it was supposed to make before shifting towards the orbit near the sun.
The question raised was why the rocket’s degenerate is appearing now. The scientists theorized that the Earth’s gravity was pulling it closer to Earth and will be drifting away from the planet.
ESA officials noted that the object appeared to be an astronomic object via telescope before making further analysis and concluding that it was space junk.
The head of the European Space Agency debris office, Tim Flohrer, explained that the object was close to Earth and in a definite space where few objects orbit. The leader hopes that NASA can earmark to prevent confusion in the future or else find a way of mitigating this debris.
Finally, 2020 SO displayed behavior similar to the WT1190F, which is space debris coming from the 1998 Lunar Prospector mission. This junk was converted to a small temporary satellite orbiting Earth and was helpful five years ago. The agency advocates for the object’s analysis to prevent accidents in case it penetrates through the Earth’s atmosphere.