How a long-gone Apollo rocket returned to Earth
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But an analysis of recent launches did not identify any possible candidates for the source of the object. Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, tracing back the object’s trajectory, discovered that it had been captured in April 2002 into Earth orbit from an orbit around the Sun that was similar to Earth’s. Backtracking even further, the object appeared to have gotten into its Sun-circling orbit after originally escaping Earth orbit all the way back in February 1971.?
Another team of scientists from the University of Arizona and MIT performed a spectroscopic analysis of J002E3, looking at the light it reflected to search for chemical fingerprints to determine what it was made of. They made a startling discovery: J002E3 appeared to be covered in paint — specifically, white, titaniumoxide (TiO2) paint. According to Kira Jorgensen Abercromby at California Polytechnic State University, who also studied J002E3 while at the Air Force Maui Optical & Supercomputing observatory, “What we saw were features in the spectral data that matched other upper-stage rocket bodies launched during a similar time frame [to the Apollo missions] and the data also matched typical features found in organic paints that looked like TiO2.”
This information pointed toward a very specific object as the identity of J002E3: a spent third stage from an Apollo-era Saturn V rocket, which were historically covered in this specific kind of paint.
The massive Saturn V propelled the Apollo astronauts to the Moon and later lofted the Skylab Space Station into orbit around Earth. While 18 complete Saturn V rockets were built, only 13 were ever launched (the rest were built for testing or never used once Apollo’s funding dried up). The Saturn V was a three-stage rocket. The first and second stages of the Saturn V fell back to Earth once they were spent. The third stage, known as the S-IVB, was just under 60 feet (18 meters) in length and, once released, temporarily orbited Earth along with the Apollo spacecraft before being reignited to send its hardware into lunar orbit. Of note, the Apollo 7 mission used the smaller Saturn IB rocket, which also used an S-IVB as a second stage. According to Amy Shira Teitel, host of YouTube’s The Vintage Space, “Without the S-IVB, the Apollo Moon landings couldn’t have happened.”
Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction
May 17, 2020 at 1:02 AM #316210
May 27, 2020 at 8:01 AM #319513Snort McDorkParticipant
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I'm Snort McDork and I approved this message.
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May 27, 2020 at 3:09 PM #319578GryneosParticipant
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It’s an excellent example of how the gravity of larger bodies affect smaller bodies in orbits. Also, the “L1” is the Lagrange Point 1. I thought I’d read that the Artemis-program Gateway station will be in a Lagrange point as well, but it may just be put into a high orbit around the Moon.
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May 29, 2020 at 4:57 AM #320107Babel 17Participant
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