A discarded Apollo 10 lunar module known as "Snoopy" has been moving in space for 50 years. His position is a complete mystery. Now, after a meticulous eight-year search, a team of astronomers suspect they've finally found it. On May 22, 1969, just two months before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made their famous walk, NASA's Apollo 10 mission completed an important preparatory exercise around 47,400 feet above the Moon.
During this dress rehearsal for the Moon Landing, astronauts Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan spent some time in a lunar module nicknamed Snoopy, while the other astronaut John Young waited in the command module and dubbed Charlie Brown accordingly. The lunar module was named because it was supposed to be "snooping" around the future lunar landing site.
After the docking maneuver, the astronauts pushed back to Young in the command module and returned to Earth, but Snoopy never made it home or onto the lunar surface. Instead, the lunar module was thrown into orbit around the sun, from which nothing was heard until now. Possibly.
As Sky News reports, some astronomers are "98% sure" that they have found Snoopy's position in space. The news was announced by Nick Howes, a member of the Royal Astronomical Society, to an audience that recently attended the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK.
Howes started searching for Snoopy in 2011. Over the past eight years, his team has been surveying the radar data collected by several observatories. Howes told Gizmodo in a Twitter direct message that his team was "browsing through a lot of data" with members of the asteroid zoo. Already in 2015, the team believed that they had discovered Snoopy, but the so-called object Wt1190f reentered the earth's atmosphere. At this time, it was identified as the transmonential injection phase of the 1998 Lunar Prospector mission.
The object in question was finally picked up by the Mount Lemmon Sky Survey team in January 2018. "It quickly became clear that size and orbit were very similar to Snoopy's calculations in 2011 and 2012," Howes told Gizmodo. Howes said his team used online orbital calculators such as AGI's Systems Tool Kit (STK) to determine the object's orbit.
Speaking to Sky News, Howes said, "we can not be 100% sure of this object" is Snoopy. For this we have to be "very close" and create a detailed radar profile. Howe told Gizmodo that there is no time left.
"At the moment [it’s] on the way from us" and it's "back in about 18 years," he said. The object currently has a brightness of 29.5, which means that with most telescopes it is not possible to take pictures, he added.
If the object is eventually confirmed as Snoopy, Howes said we should try to intercept and map it. He thought SpaceX CEO Elon Musk might be a good candidate for such a mission. Regarding the question of whether we should deal with Snoopy, "this is an interesting question," he said, "as the cost would be high compared to the scientific return" in the search for the Titanic . "
How is it correct to say that it's an" interesting question "if we should retrieve Snoopy, if that's what the object really is. But to be fair, this historical relic does nothing for anyone out there in the depths of space. I prefer that we get it and bring it to a museum for everyone to see. It would undoubtedly be an expensive affair, but also pretty cool.