Fisherman in Brazil hooks a hunk of space junk

Villagers and authorities work together to lift the rocket shroud up onto the river bank yesterday April 29, 2014. Credit: STRINGER/BRAZIL/Newscom/Reuters

It had to happen sooner or later. Someone throws a hook in the water and catches … a piece of man-made space junk. Manoel Alves dos Santos, 73, a resident of the village of Macapazinho in northern Brazil, went fishing in the Uriandeua River last Saturday night. At first he thought he’d hooked a whale or snake but was shocked to see what glistened at the end of his line – a piece of the rocket that lofted the UK Space Agency’s Alphasat into orbit.

Visitors pull their boat ashore to get a look at the space debris fished out from the Uriandeua River Saturday. Credit: STRINGER/BRAZIL/Newscom/Reuters

Alphasat, the agency’s largest telecommunications satellite, launched from the Kourou spaceport in neighboring French Guiana last July 25. Julia Short, a spokeperson for the agency, said that the launch vehicle payload shroud probably landed in the Atlantic Ocean and was washed to the coast and into the river.

At first authorities didn’t respond to calls from the locals about dos Santos’ find because they had a hard time believing the story, but once the press arrived, police and other authorities changed their tune.

The photos were all taken yesterday April 29 and show local residents, policemen and rescue workers at the scene.

Children pose near part of a rocket shroud that sent the UK Space Agency’s Alphsat into orbit last July. Credit: STRINGER/BRAZIL/Newscom/Reuters

Dos Santos is probably enjoying his moment in the public spotlight for his exceptional catch, but it’s doubtful he’ll be able to keep it. According to the Outer Space Treaty, satellites and other space objects remain the property of their original owners regardless of their location. If discovered or recovered in a “foreign territory or on the high seas” they must be returned to the the country that launched them. I suspect the Brits will send a team to the village to recover the artifact.

Pity. Cleaned up a little and tacked onto a wooden frame, the rocket panel would make a an impressive trophy on the wall of Dos Santos’ home. Read more about the story HERE (be sure to click Translate when the option pops up – the story’s in Portuguese.)

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About astrobob

My name is Bob King and I work at the Duluth News Tribune in Duluth, Minn. as a photographer and photo editor. I'm also an amateur astronomer and have been keen on the sky since age 11. My modest credentials include membership in the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) where I'm a regular contributor, International Meteorite Collectors Assn. and Arrowhead Astronomical Society. I also teach community education astronomy classes at our local planetarium.

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