Sandy's Mystery Object

More news about the the space rocket debris washed up on the Delphi Club beach, Abaco. The booster rocket fairing found by Sandy fortunately had a serial number on it. Various inquiries have been made and a definitive explanation of the item has now been given by the NTSB. It turns out that the fairing was not, after all, from the Ariane 5 launch in French Guyana. More exciting than that – it comes from a Mars Program launch to put the Space Rover Curiosity on Mars. There’s an excellent Wikipedia article on the mission to be found at WIKIMARS

NTSB - An Independent Federal AgencyBob Swaim at the NTSB has emailed Sandy to say   “The serial number of the fairing fragment is from a part that was on a Delta V [sic – it was in fact an Atlas V, see comments] rocket launch of November 26, 2011. In August, a new car-sized rover will touch down on Mars and you’ll have something from the mission!”  He has kindly provided a link to the launch – see image below and direct link HERE  He has also given a direct link to the NASA MARS PROGRAM site from which I have taken the screen clip below. You will see an image of the Mars Rover Curiosity, and the time countdown until touch-down at the exact moment I took the shot…

I contacted Bill Ailor, Principal Scientist/Engineer, Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies, The Aerospace Corporation AERO CORP thinking a booster fairing might be of interest for their rocket debris database. He writes

Thanks for the notification (and for your excellent web page – looks like a wonderful spot). On the website, we catalog debris that has reentered from orbit and don’t include payload fairings, solid and first stage rocket boosters, and other “range” debris, since these are suborbital and the launch is designed so that the debris impacts is in known safe areas.  That debris can sometimes float outside of the safe area and wash ashore.I should mention that we recently reentered a small device that might one day float to your beach.  I’ve attached a description.  Let us know if you see that one

Although the device he mentions may have in fact have landed a long distance away (the South Pacific even), best keep an eye out for this…REBR Fact Sheet   By a strange coincidence in a huge world, the Aerospace Database shows that in 1965 reentry debris was recovered from a beach on Abaco:

In early 1965 an object having the appearance of a space fragment was reported washed ashore on Abaco Island in the Bahamas Possibly from the Atlas-Mariner I booster which was destroyed by the range safety officer shortly after launch on 22 July 1962, and landed in the designated ocean impact area

Apologies if I have got sidetracked from normal beachcombing duties – shells and stuff – but wildlife blogging doesn’t get more exciting than this – well, unless they find a colony of Abaco parrots on Mars…


  1. Hi,
    Just saw he Picture of the rocket wreckage while looking for shots like this for a story in the Discovery Science series ‘Mysteries From Space. I am Archive Producer on the series, and like to discuss the possibility of using this image. If you have a moment, please email me at or, to discuss!

    Thanks and best wishes,

    James Smith
    Archive Producer
    Wag TV


  2. Hi,
    A very nice find indeed! Just a little correction: the nose cone is in fact NOT from a Delta V (which does not exist – the IV is the newest version) but the Atlas V. This rocket, correctly shown on the photo, launched Curiosity to Mars.


    • Hi, thanks very much for your comment. Correction gratefully received! I simply cut ‘n’ pasted the NTSB email (which refers to Delta V) without taking on board (when I read the NASA details including the right reference to Atlas V. All the best from Rolling Harbour

      PS As an addendum to the episode, the initial lack of official interest in the cone (which I rather hoped could then be planted deep in the coppice or pine forest for future generations to discover and wonder about…) changed. In due course a team of astro-science persons came and took it away. This forestalled my other idea: cutting it up into hundreds of small pieces and selling them on eBay (possible in aid of Abaco Parrots…)



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