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Found: Rocket Pressurization System, Slightly Used

The Sherif's Office in Moffat County, Colorado was in for a shock on March 22, 2011 when their Lost and Found office acquired a mysterious new find. It was a metal sphere, 30 inches in diameter, with Cyrillic markings.

Illustration for article titled Found: Rocket Pressurization System, Slightly Used
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The Zenit-3 pressurization system ended up in Moffat County, Colorado. Image credit: NASA

Russia tested a new launch vehicle in January 2011, a Zenit-3 SLBF that abandoned two stages in orbit. One of the stages was in a low parking orbit, quickly falling back to Earth. It re-entered about 80 kilometers above Los Angeles, California on March 19th, 2011. The debris trajectory carried it northeast to Utah and Colorado.

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Days later, the Sheriff's office in Moffat County reported finding a metal sphere with Cyrillic markings. Between the timing, location, and lettering, NASA quickly associated the found object with the Zenit re-entry, identifying what appears to be part of the pressurization system.

Space junk is a growing planet in near-Earth orbit. This isn't the first chunk of a rocket found somewhere unexpected, although it is the only one that made it to a Lost & Found.

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DISCUSSION

Mika, you may have been citing text published elsewhere, but really there is no need to overdramatize: "Cyrillic markings" is made to sound like cheap Hollywood. Why not be a tad more professional and just say "Russian lettering"?