Debris from a SpaceX rocket is found across the Atlantic Ocean
Encrusted in barnacles, the debris shows a U.S. flag and the words "Falcon 9"
Some Reddit users believe it is debris from a space station resupply mission that blew up in June
A large chunk of debris from a SpaceX rocket has been found floating off a remote British island, more than 4,000 miles (6,500 kilometers) from where it took off.
The barnacle-encrusted debris – which measures about 33 feet by 13 feet (10 meters by 4 meters) and is decorated with a U.S. flag – is believed to have come from an unmanned Falcon 9 rocket, designed by Elon Musk’s private aerospace company, which blew up in June shortly after launch.
The rockets are launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. But the object was found off the Isles of Scilly, a small archipelago southwest of the British mainland.
The words “Falcon 9” were visible on the debris, said Joseph Thomas, a boat captain who spotted the object in the water between the islands of Bryher and Tresco on Thursday afternoon.
“My first thoughts were, it might be a whale or something dead floating on the surface, because there were seabirds feeding off it,” said Thomas, a skipper for Tresco Boat Services. “It turned out they were feeding off goose barnacles.”
Markings that appeared to be letters were visible on the debris, so there were fears it could have come from a plane. The reality was even more remarkable.
“Once we got it ashore with the help of another vessel, (the coast guard) scraped some of the goose barnacles off, and it just so happened the first place they scraped, they found the flag,” Thomas said.
A group of users on the website Reddit analyzed images of the object and came to the conclusion that it was debris from SpaceX CRS-4 – a resupply mission to the International Space Station that was launched from Cape Canaveral in September 2014.
Meanwhile Martin Leslie, coastal area commander for the coast guard, said in a statement that he believed the debris was “most likely to be (from) the unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 which blew up shortly after takeoff from Cape Canaveral in June.”
SpaceX didn’t have any immediate comment on either claim.
Local resident Pete Hicks, who was involved in bringing the debris to shore, tweeted, “Towed in and beached a piece of flotsam earlier. Thoughts were could be aviation parts… didn’t imagine space race.”
The debris is now on a beach on the island of Tresco, where authorities were checking it for serial numbers and communicating with SpaceX to identify which mission it had come from.