The missile lost in the sixties that came back

It left the earth decades ago … and was lost. Now he comes back as a prodigal son. But he’ll be leaving soon. It’s not Superman, but an old rocket that was launched by NASA. The rocket lost when it returned to Earth in the 1960s. It was a long journey. It will remain as a temporary satellite for a few months. Then it returns to a solar orbit. It’s a rocket that helped bring NASA’s unfortunate Surveyor 2 spacecraft to the moon. He did it in 1966.

The rocket that was lost in the 1960s and returned to Earth was thus approaching our orbit.
The rocket that was lost in the 1960s and returned to Earth was thus approaching our orbit.
Flying object

The Pan-STARRS1 reconnaissance telescope discovered the object in September. The astronomers found that it followed a slight but distinctly curved path in the sky. It was estimated that it was an asteroid orbiting the sun. But it wasn’t a normal asteroid.

Most asteroid orbits are more elongated and inclined relative to Earth. But the 2020 SE orbit around the sun was very similar to that of our planet. It was about the same distance, almost circular.

The pressure exerted by sunlight is slight but continuous. And it has a greater effect on a hollow object than on a solid one. A spent rocket is essentially an empty tube. Hence, it is a low density object with a large surface area. The pressure of solar radiation is greater there than on solid rock. It’s like an empty beverage can that carries the wind more easily than a small stone. The next step was to find out where the alleged booster missile came from.

The Mondlander Surveyor 2 was launched towards the moon on September 20, 1966. The mission was to measure the surface of the moon before the missions. Shortly after launch, Surveyor 2 separated from the upper centaur level as planned. But control of the spaceship was lost a day later. One of its engines did not ignite and spun. The spaceship crashed into the moon on September 23, 1966. And the spent centaur upper level happened in front of the moon and disappeared in an unknown orbit around the sun.

The rocket would be part of a NASA launch in 1966.
The rocket would be part of a NASA launch in 1966.
Round trip

The director of CNEOS (Center for Near-Earth Object Studies), Paul Chodas, has observed the object’s orbit in the past. He saw that by the end of 1966 it would have been close enough to have originated on Earth. “It was like a Eureka moment. A quick review of the launch dates of the lunar missions showed a match with the Surveyor 2 mission, ”he says.

Now, in 2020, the missile lost in the 1960s has returned for a brief visit. In about four months, it will escape into a new orbit around the sun in March 2021. Before leaving, 2020 SO will make two great laps around our planet. The next approach will be on December 1st. During this time, astronomers will take a closer look at this. You can confirm if 2020 SO is really an early space age artifact. A prodigal son in space.

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