Home Science and technology Space debris falling on Saskatchewan farmland raises the question: who is liable?

Space debris falling on Saskatchewan farmland raises the question: who is liable?

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In recent years, there have been numerous instances of space debris falling to Earth. One notable case occurred in March when an object crashed through the roof of a Florida home. Most recently, a piece of debris from a SpaceX spacecraft landed in a Saskatchewan farmer’s field.

That farmer is Barry Sawchuk and though some might be surprised, he said he’s just “going with the flow.”

“It is what it is, it’s just another day, another thing,” he said with a shrug.

Sawchuk, who farms with his three sons near Ituna, close to Regina, was inspecting the moisture levels in his fields at the end of April when he stumbled upon an unusual item. According to Sawchuk, the object resembled a charred piece of carbon fiber with aluminum honeycombing in between, and it included a hydraulic cylinder. Intrigued by the discovery, he continued to survey the area and found a second, smaller piece of debris nearby on their land. This unexpected find added a new layer of curiosity and concern to their routine farming activities.

The family contacted Samantha Lawler, an associate professor of astronomy at the University of Regina. Upon receiving a photo of the object, Lawler immediately recognised what it was.

“I saw a picture of it like, oh, that’s actually space junk, oh my God,” she told Global News in an interview. “That’s amazing, (and) also terrifying.”

Lawler then reached out to one of her colleagues, Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, who specialises in tracking space launches. McDowell analysed the information and determined that what Sawchuk had found was likely linked to a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft that had returned to Earth in February.

The Transportation and Safety Board of Canada confirmed there were no reports of aircraft that could explain the object.

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