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Mystery Object Found On Australian Beach Debris From Chandrayaan-3? Here’s What We Found About Viral Image

Authors

Kushel HM is a mechanical engineer-turned-journalist, who loves all things football, tennis and films. He was with the news desk at the Hindustan Times, Mumbai, before joining Newschecker.

Claim
Space debris from recently launched Chandrayaan-3 washes up on Australian beach.

Fact
Investigation is still going on, mystery object most likely to be from a previous PSLV launch.

An image of a massive copper-coloured cylinder, purportedly washed up on an Australian beach, has gone viral with the claim that it is a piece from India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission, the third in India’s programme of lunar exploration, which was launched on July 14 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. Social media users are sharing the image, calling India’s historic moon mission, which was aiming to be the first to land near its little-explored south pole, a failure.

The archived version of the tweet can be seen here.

Launched On July 14

The Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft with an orbiter, lander and a rover lifted off at 14:35 on Friday (July 14) from the Sriharikota space centre. If Chandrayaan-3 achieves its soft landing on the moon’s surface, it will make India only the fourth nation to have accomplished the challenging task after the United States, the former Soviet Union and China.  The lander is due to reach the Moon on August 23-24. The mission comes four years after the ambitious Chandrayaan-2, which failed to achieve the desired soft landing in September 2019.

Also Read: Here’s The Truth Behind Viral Videos Shared To Show Launch Of Chandrayaan 3

Fact Check

Newschecker ran a keyword search for “Chandrayaan-3 Australia debris”, which led us to multiple news reports about a mysterious object found on the coast of Green Head in Western Australia, which has puzzled Australian authorities and sparked speculation that it could be from the Chandrayaan-3 launch.

 According to an India Today report, dated July 17, 2023, while Twitter is abuzz with speculation that it could be one of the spent stages of LVM-3, which carried Chandrayaan-3, the Australian Space Agency has not confirmed it and the Indian space agency has also kept quiet so far. It could also be a spent stage from an old PSLV launch from India. The authorities are not ruling out any possibilities and believe that the object can belong to the military or the Australian space agency, read a Mint report, dated July 17, 2023, adding that aviation experts are claiming that it is possible that the object is a fuel tank of a space rocket fallen into the Indian Ocean, possibly in the past 12 months.

The report led us to a series of tweets by the Australian Space Agency, dated July 17, 2023, stating they were making enquiries related to the object located on a beach near Jurien Bay in Western Australia. According to a Financial Express report, it is “liaising with global counterparts who may be able to provide more information”

On July 19, the agency tweeted out an update, stating that it has determined the object is most likely a solid rocket motor casing, while adding that its continuing its inquiry with its global counterparts.

Meanwhile, ISRO chief S Somanath told BBC that the giant metal dome that washed up on an Australian beach was definitely part of a rocket — but may or may not be Indian. “We can’t confirm it’s ours unless we analyse it,” S Somanath said.

“Some even said it may be from India’s latest Moon mission launch last Friday but experts quickly ruled that out,” stated the BBC report, adding that experts said the object had been in the water for at least a few months, as proved by the extensive barnacle cover on it.

Somanath, however, confirmed to BBC that “some of the PSLV parts are known to have fallen in the sea beyond Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone” and said that the object “may have been floating for a long time and finally reached the shore”.

“We cannot confirm or deny anything about the object without seeing it in person and checking it. First the Australian space agency has to send a video of the object. We have to see the markings if any on it. They have to move the object to a different place. If need be, ISRO officials can go there to confirm whether it belongs to an Indian rocket,” a senior official of ISRO told IANS preferring anonymity.

Dr Alice Gorman, an expert in the field of space archaeology, reportedly told the Guardian that she believes the object is a fuel cylinder that came from the third stage of India’s polar satellite launch vehicle rocket.

The Indian Express pointed out the possibility that the rocket could have an Indian connection—it could be part of the third-stage booster of the ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). An image of engineers hoisting PSLV’s third-stage shows a component that doesn’t look dissimilar to the object that washed up in Australia, according to the report.  

According to Science Alert, judging by the barnacles on the newly beached metal object, it has probably been in the ocean for more than a few months.

European Space Agency engineer Andrea Boyd reportedly said her colleagues believed the item that washed up from the Indian Ocean fell from an Indian rocket while launching a satellite. “We’re pretty sure, based on the shape and the size, it is an upper-stage engine from an Indian rocket that’s used for a lot of different missions,” she said.

A news.com.au report, dated July 18, 2023, also stated that the mystery object was eerily similar to the third stage of India’s PSLV rocket, a theory propagated by several social media sleuths, backed up by Dr Alice Gorman from Flinders University. “Statistically speaking, it’s likely to be from earlier in the last decade, as 33 PLSVs were launched in the 2010s,” she said.

Also Read: Old Video Of Crocodile On Flooded Road From Vadodara Shared As Delhi

The Australian Space Agency on July 31, 2023, identified the mystery object as debris from an Indian rocket, stating that is “most likely” from an “expended third-stage of a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle” operated by the ISRO. However, the Indian agency is yet to publicly confirm the report.

UPDATE: This article has been updated on 31/07/2023 to include the Australian Space Agency’s tweet.

Conclusion

Authorities are still investigating the mystery object found on a remote Australian beach, however, experts believe it is most likely a part from a previous PSLV launch, and not from the Chandrayaan-3 mission.

Result: False

Sources
India Today report, July 17, 2023
Mint report, July 17, 2023
Tweet, Australian Space Agency, July 19, 2023
news.com.au report, July 18, 2023
BBC report, July 19, 2023


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Authors

Kushel HM is a mechanical engineer-turned-journalist, who loves all things football, tennis and films. He was with the news desk at the Hindustan Times, Mumbai, before joining Newschecker.

Kushel HM
Kushel HM
Kushel HM is a mechanical engineer-turned-journalist, who loves all things football, tennis and films. He was with the news desk at the Hindustan Times, Mumbai, before joining Newschecker.

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