Early in April, a Chinese rocket fell mid-launch while carrying an Indonesian communications satellite. While it's not entirely uncommon for this to happen (remember when a Chinese lower rocket crashed into someone's home? We do), a Reddit user may have found a big chunk of China's downed rocket in Guam, roughly 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles) away from its launch site, in Xichang Space Center, China, according to another Reddit user.
Notably, the wreckage might be carcinogenic.
Downed Chinese rocket allegedly found in Guam
Called a Long March 3B rocket, the space vehicle malfunctioned mid-launch of an Indonesian communications satellite in early April, according to Spaceflight Now. At the time, China's state-run news agency, Xinhua, said the rocket launcher failed after successfully lifting off from Xichang space center in the space-faring country's southwestern Sichuan province, at 7:46 AM EDT.
Since then, a 3-meter-wide (roughly 10-feet-wide) chunk of wreckage from the rocket may have turned up in Guam, according to Redditors.
When launched, the rocket was heading for geostationary orbit, more than 36,000 kilometers (22,000 miles) above the Earth's equator, when the third stage went awry. Wreckage then re-entered the atmosphere, according to Xinhua.
China's downed rocket wreckage seen burning near Guam
At the time, debris was visible and recorded by people in Guam, wherein fiery debris streaked across the moonlit sky. Guam's Offices of Homeland Security and Civil Defense released a statement that said the debris was likely connected with the downed Chinese rocket and added that there was "no direct threat" to the Pacific islands, according to Spaceflight Now.
A Twitter post from Spaceflight Now showed one of the videos, viewable below:
A Long March 3B rocket failed during the launch of an Indonesian communications satellite Thursday, leading to sightings of fiery debris in the skies over Guam (📷: @KanditNews). FULL STORY: https://t.co/jNN72dQmHXpic.twitter.com/6pG4OmLmJw— Spaceflight Now (@SpaceflightNow) April 9, 2020
Possibly carcinogenic 'honeycomb' rocket duct tape
The first guesses of the identity of the object were that the wreckage could be from a part of China's rocket between the hydrogen and oxygen tanks. However, the very next comment — made by an aerospace engineer — claimed that "honeycomb structures are very common even in parts where you would not expect it [...] Honeycomb is kind of the ductape (sic) of aerospace construction."
This 'honeycomb structure' is allegedly part of the rocket's first or second stage. Since the first and second stages use dinitrogen tetroxide and UDMH, the wreckage found on Guam could be "incredibly carcinogenic," according to a follow-up post.
"If the honeycomb structure is carbon fib[er], inhaling those tiny fib[ers] can't be good for you," said the follow-up Redditor.
As the world's greatest space programs ramp up their private sector services — along with private space programs launching business itself into space — there is a question to be raised about the safety not only of the spacecraft, but also for the ones who live where potentially dangerous materials may rain disconcertingly down.