Spaceballs – the debris

Curious story in AFP yesterday:

Full story here – Click the image above for a large view of the object.

Me thinks it is from either of these spacecraft:

The Vostok had a whole ring of spherical tanks, and maybe and old piece of space junk from one of the old service modules finally came home.

Image: Bohams auction house

Only the main sphere is kept in re-entry, everything else is discarded.


Though given the trajectory when the service package is jettisoned, and because Vostok flight was in the early 1960’s, it seems doubtful such objects would remain in orbit, though possible if they “skipped” off the atmosphere after jettison.

Another candidate is the Soyuz, still in use today:

Under the shroud of the instrumentation support module there are a number of spherical tanks, as seen in this diagram:

Diagram from the New York Times
UPDATE:Well I was half right, it is a tank from a Russian spacecraft. Niels shows an example from Argentina:

Niels says:

Hi Anthony,

The tank is from a Salyut 7 – Kosmos 1686 spacecraft. It is made of titanium and was used to store helium.



Looks right:

crater1 nhmtank1 nhmtank2 nhmtank3 polyfilla s1 s2 s3 s4 s5 s6 s7

Roy Spencer thinks it is a hydrazine tank:

Probably a standard interchangeable tank used on many spacecraft. Russians tend to reuse a lot of technology.

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December 23, 2011 9:12 am

If you loved the old simulation moon landers from the early days of computers, there is a new software package that allows you to design, build and fly your own craft. My daughter and I are competing to see who gets out of orbit regularly first. The physics package is supposed to be correct. What you do with your design is up to you.
Warning, this game should come with a warning. It can easily become addicting, causing issues like wrist fatigue and carpel tunnel, from having to much fun.

December 23, 2011 9:15 am

Uhhh, the gods must be crazy

Yancey Ward
December 23, 2011 9:16 am

Would they survive impact, though?

December 23, 2011 9:19 am

Hi Anthony,
The tank is from a Salyut 7 – Kosmos 1686 spacecraft. It is made of titanium and was used to store helium.

December 23, 2011 9:21 am

Aren’t these balls predicted by one of the GCM’s??
Thought I read in the AR4 a warning that as the earth warmed due to human emissions of CO2, steel balls could fall from the sky. Could be wrong, maybe it was a pre-press release of AR5.
There could be religious significance here too….The Gods Must Be Crazy III??

December 23, 2011 9:25 am
kbray in california
December 23, 2011 9:29 am

Buckyballs… the Buck stops here.

December 23, 2011 9:31 am

Yahoo comments suggested this one:
The weight between the two is pretty spot on, but the “space ball” has a smaller radius. This could be due to reentry, corrosion and/or simply how it was measured (i.e. from the pole mounting).

December 23, 2011 9:32 am

Everybody is liking the spaceballs! Roy Spencer has the spaceball and a photo of a hydrazine tank too:

December 23, 2011 9:32 am

Great catch 🙂

I'd rather not say
December 23, 2011 9:34 am

Not from Phobos/Grunt?

December 23, 2011 9:36 am

It’s 1.1 meters in diameter and weighs 6 kg.
It has low density- surface area of human and far lighter. Human has terminal velocity of 180 mph.
So this might fall around 100 mph?
Yet it makes:
“a hole 33 centimetres deep and 3.8 meters wide”
If from space it would fall vertically and making such a deep hole seems unlikely. And “3.8 meters wide” makes no sense.
In others words since it has low density I would think it would lose any orbital velocity and fall at it’s terminal velocity.
If it was filled with water or liquid oxygen/nitrogen it would be far more density- weigh a ton instead 6 kg and impact at a much higher velocity.

December 23, 2011 9:51 am

A number of these spheres have survived re-entry over the years. There is even a collection, Here is a listing:

December 23, 2011 9:56 am

Nah, it’s just Stewie’s head.

Brian H
December 23, 2011 9:57 am

gbaikie says:
December 23, 2011 at 9:36 am
It’s 1.1 meters in diameter and weighs 6 kg.

Read much?
That would be circumference. The diameter is specified as 35 cm. The difference is pi (π)

December 23, 2011 10:03 am

Very interesting – thanks for posting!

December 23, 2011 10:04 am

I think it is Globull Warning Balls.

December 23, 2011 10:09 am

@ gbaikie says:
December 23, 2011 at 9:36 am
It’s 1.1 meters in diameter and weighs 6 kg.
You misread. 1.1 meters in circumference, not diameter.

December 23, 2011 10:19 am

a space coconut.

Steven Kopits
December 23, 2011 10:19 am

The internet is an amazing place. Show a weird object, and within a few hours someone out there will identify it. Amazing.

December 23, 2011 10:22 am

Wasn’t there some big issue years ago…about a mysterious Coke fell from the sky in Africa? Or maybe I am just Crazy…

Hugh Kelly
December 23, 2011 10:24 am

This is unequivocal, most likely caused by humans, poses a dire threat to all life on earth, will only increase in frequency with life on earth completely transformed by the year 2020. In a sense, it was a confirmation of what we knew was going to happen anyway. The thing that worries is the rate of change, the pace at which this is going to happen. This has been a wake-up call; the canary in the coal mine for the rest of the world.
The only responsible solution is to set up a large bureaucratic agency, throw billions of tax dollars at it and establish a space balls tax/trading scheme.

December 23, 2011 10:26 am

It’s 1.1 meters in diameter
1.1 meters in circumference, not diameter

December 23, 2011 10:27 am

Gaia has balls after all… they found one of them.

December 23, 2011 10:32 am

Merchandising! Merchandising! Where the real money from the movie is made. Spaceballs: the T-shirt, Spaceballs: the coloring book, Spaceballs: the lunch box, Spaceballs: the breakfast cereal, Spaceballs: the flamethrower–the kids love this one–last but not least, Spaceballs: the debris!

December 23, 2011 10:35 am

Not from the Salyut 7 (it re-entered in Feb. 1991). My guess would be part of the RCS from the Zenit 2nd stage from the Russian’s Phobos-Grunt mission.

December 23, 2011 10:43 am

Nah, It’s a baby Death Star.. Thank God we got to it before it ‘got all growd up’..
AGW would have been the least of our worries…..
Come to think of it, the Death Star gives the ultimate hockey stick temp profile for a planet, the ultimate Global Warmer….. Maybe Mr. Mann needs to go an investigate some samples of its’ rings.. There is a large enough sample source for him, one… I’m sure those statistics could bear him some fruit.

December 23, 2011 10:55 am

“metal alloy known to man”
Who writes like that? Just say what the alloy is. It sounds like the author is being intentionally obscure.

December 23, 2011 10:55 am

“You misread. 1.1 meters in circumference, not diameter.”
The picture caption said “A photo provided by the National Forensic Science Institute shows a giant metallic ball, 1.1 metre in diameter and weighing some 6 kilograms (13 pounds), that fell out of the sky on a remote grassland in Namibia.”
But I agree it seems more likely it’s 14″ in diameter- and seems strangely common for some reason. Helium is stored at high pressure- needing thick walls. That makes sense- it would hit the ground at a high velocity- slightly slower than a cannon ball.

December 23, 2011 10:56 am

If that things made out of almost pure titanium its worth its weight in gold… or titanium as its going for a alot per ounce nowadays.

December 23, 2011 10:56 am

Actually, it appears to be an American Orbiting Spy Ball. Namibia apparently shot it down using technology borrowed from Iran.
Barak Obama is very upset, and has asked that the Spy Ball be returned immediately. Upon getting a frosty “no” from Namibia, Obama changed his position to “pretty please give me my spy thingy back?”
Namibia responded with an encrypted message that has been submitted to the new supercomputer at NOAA for decrypting. An Obama spokesmonkey says the code appears very difficult to crack, but it shouldn’t be more than a few days to determing what “ROFLMAO” actually means.

December 23, 2011 11:06 am

GloBALL warming? If these are a result of AGW i think we might be in trouble…

Steve from Rockwood
December 23, 2011 11:12 am

My vote is:
a) right from FOIA him/herself. After that person must have balls of steel.
b) looks like it might come from a ball mill (used to grind ore) in a mineral processing plant.
If you cut it open and there’s a password inside then…not from a ball mill.

December 23, 2011 11:47 am

‘sprised nobody made mention of this yet; ‘the movie’:

December 23, 2011 11:48 am

“The Andromeda Strain”

George E. Smith;
December 23, 2011 11:49 am

Forget about what the damn thing is; I want to know how it got up and walked 18 metres from where it landed, until somebody finally caught up with it and arrested its escape !!

December 23, 2011 12:08 pm

There’s a long history of ‘metal alloys known to man’ falling from the sky in Namibia –

December 23, 2011 12:17 pm

rabbit says:
December 23, 2011 at 10:55 am
This is coming from early when this news came out a few days ago. Some journalist said that this ball could be the proof that UFOs existed.

Brian R
December 23, 2011 12:21 pm

It’s a ship bumper. Like what they use on boat at dock. Except this is used by alien spacecraft while at the space dock above or north pole.
…Or it’s just a fuel tank for a satellite that burned up on re-entry.

December 23, 2011 12:22 pm

Well, I think Joe is right about it being used for hydrazine and not helium. I was wondering about the helium myself.

Tim Clark
December 23, 2011 12:23 pm

I don’t believe the explanation provided. Just another government coverup.
It is obvious to me this space relic is the remnants of the tank float from the toilet facilities on the crashed Roswell NM alien spacecraft. This answers the highly important question of why it crashed shortly after entering the earth’s atsmosphere. Averaged model runs utilizing the new NOAA-CRAY Gaea computer have robustly determined the heat of entry ignited the copious quantities of decomposing, methane producing alien scat. It also explains why hi-tech indoor toilet fixtures became universally available shortly after the crash. Of course, earthling fixtures are made of more readily available sustainable materials.
I am not at liberty to disclose additional details, except that the models provided no data on where the bidet ended up.

kbray in california
December 23, 2011 12:37 pm

Clearly a carbon dioxide molecule that experienced over-forcing…
The carbon part was somehow over taxed and stressed,
causing it to swell into an unnatural size.
As CO2 levels increase, this kind of mutation falling from the sky will become a common event.

December 23, 2011 12:47 pm

Soccer players from Alpha Centauri. And they’re angry!

December 23, 2011 12:55 pm

Briff:”Oi! Phil!”
Philj: “Whadya want Briff me old spudgun?”
Briff: “Look, Manns got this *new* theory about these ere spaceballs in Namibia. Says he’s positive the models show a clear correlation to climate change. He reckons theres a hockey connection in there too”.
Philj: “Can we get it in AR5 dya think?”
Briff: “Darn right we can, even if it means redefining what the peer reviewed literature is”.
Philj: “Hey! Ive heard that somewhere before im sure, if only i could get my excel working!
Anyways,Thats so cool man! And if we offer up scary scenarios it should get some major coverage right?”.
Briff: “You better believe it kiddo and those research grants will just come a flooding in”.
Philj: “But what happens if those proper scientists start asking awkward questions about the brilliant climastrology we do here?”
Briff: ” Well, we’ll just decline, wont we?”.
PhilJ: “And hide too?”.
Briff: “Absolutely buddy, all in plain sight”.

Chris F
December 23, 2011 1:07 pm

pat says:
December 23, 2011 at 9:51 am
A number of these spheres have survived re-entry over the years. There is even a collection, Here is a listing:
It’s peculiar that list doesn’t mention Challenger in 1986 or Columbia in 2003.

Jimmy Haigh
December 23, 2011 1:12 pm

Nah. Us rich white guys causing havoc again,
Coincidentally I’m listening to Ella and Loiuis …

Rob L
December 23, 2011 1:13 pm

During the height of the cold war back in the early 60’s my teenaged dad found a similar titanium sphere in a farm field in Canterbury New Zealand. Was much officious self important behaviour from local authorities who were probably thrilled to feel vaguely relevant to the global conflict such as it was at the time. Was also Russian in Origin – and given very 50+ year old Soyuz design may even have been off the same model of rocket.

December 23, 2011 1:19 pm

With all those micro craters it looks like a miniature moon.
Would have been neat if it had been from the vostok though, like a present day historical find. :p

Pamela Gray
December 23, 2011 1:28 pm

It looks like a sleigh bell to me. Is Santa missing one?

December 23, 2011 1:55 pm

Well, that will upset the Guardian. They were looking forward to aliens landing to punish us for global warming.

D. J. Hawkins
December 23, 2011 2:05 pm

Pamela Gray says:
December 23, 2011 at 1:28 pm
It looks like a sleigh bell to me. Is Santa missing one?

Only if the Jolly Green Giant is moonlighting as St. Nick!!

kbray in california
December 23, 2011 2:10 pm

Pamela Gray says:
December 23, 2011 at 1:28 pm
Sleigh bell… funny.
spell that slay-bell,
because that’s what it would do if it hit you…

December 23, 2011 2:17 pm

Who has balls of titanium, and is missing one?

Peter Walsh
December 23, 2011 2:21 pm

Could this be the remains of the original hemispheres used in the Magdeburg Experiment in the 17th Century.

Atomic Hairdryer
December 23, 2011 2:21 pm

Titanium? This is just proof of global warming forcing brass monkeys to adapt and evolve into utilising stronger metals. Titanium monkey wants his ball back, and is looking for a TIG welder.

Steve from Rockwood
December 23, 2011 2:33 pm

Here’s a basket of them.
If I lived in Namibia and had some time on my hands, I would build a catapult, find some ball mill balls and see how far I could chuck those suckers. If I ever found a newspaper article about people thinking they were from a space ship – well – I’d just throw one or two every year just to tease their stupidity.

December 23, 2011 2:37 pm

This is how the story goes…
The increasing frequency of falling spaceballs has lead scientists at UEA to model their frequency in relation to GHG emissions.
Startling new results show strong corellation between metal objects appearing unexpectedly on the Earth and Atmospheric CO2 emissions.
“When we removed all known natural signals from the analysis we were were left with the conclusion that this was of anthropogenic origin.”
“We ran our models using the A1B emission scenario and project that the earth will be completely covered in titanium by the year 2100”
The authors of the study say that this is probably linked to global warming.

December 23, 2011 2:39 pm

NASA should take a note: Spherical objects with a titanium outer ‘skin’ can survive the atmosphere reentry intact.

Ray R.
December 23, 2011 2:53 pm

They’ve neutered R2D2?

December 23, 2011 3:09 pm

Looks like a big hunk of frozen poo that fell from a passing jetliner…
(That’s what they proved in the movie “Joe Dirt”)

December 23, 2011 3:24 pm

Reaujere says:
December 23, 2011 at 10:35 am
Not from the Salyut 7 (it re-entered in Feb. 1991). My guess would be part of the RCS from the Zenit 2nd stage from the Russian’s Phobos-Grunt mission.
Guess we all knew that the Russians have balls..
M.A.Vukcevic says:
December 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm
NASA should take a note: Spherical objects with a titanium outer ‘skin’ can survive the atmosphere reentry intact.
I’ll see your “titanium sphereical objects” and raise you a “tail-less Comet Lovejoy.”
“”..This is the SECCHI COR-1 (inner coronagraph) image on the STEREO-B satellite. From the perspective of STEREO-B, the comet moved diagonally across the face of the Sun, looped around it, and re-emerged from around the back. The comet is obvious to see as it enters the camera in the lower right. We lose sight of the head of the comet at ~2300UT as it disappears behind the occulting disk. (We superimposed a Sun image on the movie — this camera doesn’t actually see that.) Then at around 0130UT we see the bright tail of the comet appear again in the upper-left of the image and continue to move out. Here’s the fun part: this is not the comet itself! Keep watching, and at ~0530UT you’ll see the comet — minus a tail! — emerge on the right hand side of the central disk and move towards the lower-right of the image, finally exiting at ~10:45UT.
So if the comet re-emerges on the right without its tail, does that mean the bright thing that flew out of the top-left of the image is its tail?? Absolutely! I summarize the situation here. What we’re seeing is the comet streaming into our field of view with a vast cloud of dust and ice trailing in its wake. The comet reaches the Sun, loops sharply around it, and head out around the back of the Sun. But the tail material we see has already left the comet and is just going to carry on in a straight line from the time it was ejected, while at the same time be pushed away from the Sun by the radiation pressure from the Sun itself. So we’re actually seeing the tail material sweeping out towards us, while the comet races off to do its own thing.
OK, why does Lovejoy not have a tail after it reappears? How did it get torn off? Well it didn’t actually get “torn off”, as it was never physically connected to begin with, but what likely happened was that the dust and ice produced by the comet was no longer able to follow the comet in its path as the relatively dense and incredibly hot solar corona “captured”..””

December 23, 2011 3:28 pm

Did C3PO ever have any? Or was he always the Mechanical Metro?

December 23, 2011 3:30 pm

NASA should take a note: Spherical objects with a titanium outer ‘skin’ can survive the atmosphere reentry intact.

Would have been interesting if the thing had a temperature logger working on the way down. I wonder what the max temp was.

Roy Spencer
December 23, 2011 3:47 pm

It wasn’t 1 m in diameter…that was from some reporter that doesn’t know the difference between diameter and *circumference*. It was about 14 inches in diameter, which is a pretty good match to the 58 liter volume of this one manufactured in Germany:

December 23, 2011 4:14 pm

Atmospheric reentry demonstrator. In more ways than one.

Phil's Dad
December 23, 2011 4:15 pm

In this part of the world it would have been just as likely to be a rogue Bludger.

kbray in california
December 23, 2011 4:15 pm

A titanium bladder tank, that can survive re-entry.
I wonder if that will work in people ?
39 Liters is a lot of pee.

Bob Diaz
December 23, 2011 4:59 pm

I think it’s just the big balls of the scientists who modify climate data and ask us to believe it. ;-))

kbray in california
December 23, 2011 5:00 pm

Judging by the picture above,If you cut it in half,
it would make one hell of a titanium bra supporter…
anatomically correct at that !

December 23, 2011 5:26 pm

A titanium bladder tank, that can survive re-entry.
I wonder if that will work in people ?
39 Liters is a lot of pee.

I don’t think the bladder survived, just the tank. It got hot. Real hot.

Ben D.
December 23, 2011 5:36 pm

The worst offenders of space debris, in terms of ability to survive re-entry relatively intact, appear to be titanium spherical pressure vessels used for pressurized fuels,This link will show a pic of one that survived rentry which is identical with the one that fell in Namibia. .It’s from a Delta II titanium pressure vessel, which often survive re-entry intact.

EO Peter
December 23, 2011 5:49 pm

Titanium oxides are very bright white, bronze or violet. Titanium composition is highly probable!
“metal alloy known to man” Nah… Obviously this assembly is part of the super spectrometer the “Grey” has used to detect that atmosphere of Earth was subject to a “catastrophic” increase of Carbon(IV) oxide, revealing how dangerous the human “pest” really is, mandating it’s immediate eradication!!!
Maybe after all, aliens are not grey but green like in the good old time when they were coming from Mars…

December 23, 2011 6:45 pm

Spaceballs?!? Well s#!+, there goes the neighborhood….

December 23, 2011 6:49 pm

Well, it’s happening. Aliens have had enough of our Global Warming, and they’ve begun their attack.
They’re throwing stuff at us.

December 23, 2011 7:03 pm

Space Balls, “What’s the matter colonel sanders? Chicken?!”
Did anyone catch the Geminid meteor shower this year? It was one of the best I’ve ever seen and there was a full moon. I was wondering if meteor showers appear brighter if the atmosphere they pass through is colder? Or can less activity from the sun influence the magnetosphere some how to effect smaller objects entering the atmosphere? there was more fireballs this year which was amazing to see. I’m convincing my self of a physical link. Anyone got a thought on this?
Kind regards to all and merry Christmas! 🙂

December 23, 2011 7:26 pm

thank you for a good laugh. There were some very funny responses. Someone beat me to the Santa joke, but I will come up with one anyway:
It looks like Santa’s sleigh has deteriorated because of global warming, per David Suzuki who told little children that the north pole was melting!!

Dan in California
December 23, 2011 8:07 pm

If that things made out of almost pure titanium its worth its weight in gold… or titanium as its going for a alot per ounce nowadays.
Nah, I’ve bought a lot of titanium lately and it’s not 1/10 the price of gold. The aerospace industry usually uses Ti6Al4V alloy. That’s a standard storage sphere (probably hydrazine) used by everybody. That crater size looks too big for that sphere though. Next time I’m at my desk at work I can calculate the terminal velocity, if anybody on here is interested.

Jimmy Haigh
December 23, 2011 8:45 pm

Christmas present sent to the tip jar in appreciation of all the good work.
All the very best to you and yours from me and mine.

Thanks !

Mike Wryley
December 23, 2011 9:21 pm

Today’s price for scrap weldable titanium, five or six bucks per pound, a veritable
Namibian treasure trove, otherwise not so much

December 24, 2011 12:25 am

Larry in Texas
December 24, 2011 12:54 am

So – some of the space junk is coming back at us. This may only be the beginning. I wonder which apocalyptic groups are going to come forward and warn us about the “sky is falling.”

Paul Schauble
December 24, 2011 2:11 am

If I did it right, and assuming the sphere was empty and it landed at sea level, the terminal velocity is about 2400 cm/sec or 80 ft/sec. Given that, I’m surprised a the size of the hole.
Of course, as noted if the tank had contents the weight and therefore the terminal velocity would be greater.

December 24, 2011 3:18 am

Wis. Public Radio during the overnight does BBC programing overnight.
News report today said, “that a piece of Russian space debris, crashed through a roof in Siberia on Cosmonaut St..???
Now is that wild or what? Cosomonaut St.. ding dong ..

December 24, 2011 3:25 am

Here’s the article.
Russian satellite hits Siberia’s ‘Cosmonaut Street’
December 24, 2011 by Stuart Williams
The Meridian communications satellite failed to reach orbit Friday due to a failure with its Soyuz rocket, raising new concerns over the Russian space programme which has now lost over half a dozen satellites in the last year.
Its fragments crashed into the Novosibirsk region of central Siberia and were found in the Ordynsk district around 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of the regional capital Novosibirsk.
“A sphere was found, around 50 centimetres (20 inches) in diameter, which crashed into the roof of a house in the village of Vagaitsevo” in the Ordynsk district, an official in the local security services told the Interfax news agency.
In an extraordinary irony, the official said that the house was located on Cosmonaut Street, named after the heroic spacemen of the Soviet and Russian space programme.
There were no reports of casualties ..

Kelvin Vaughan
December 24, 2011 5:35 am

It’s Higgs Bosun!

kbray in california
December 24, 2011 7:33 am

It’s Her’s Bosom
Recycle your SpaceBalls.

kbray in california
December 24, 2011 8:01 am

Her’s Bosom Spaceball:
That’s a covering for certain fundamental particulars…
Forgive my plethora of postings.
I have a cold and I’d rather be out shopping.
Happy Christmas to all ! And to all a good flight !
Thanks Anthony.

R. de Haan
December 24, 2011 8:01 am

Lubos Motl on Russian satellite fragment hitting a house at Cosmonaut Street.
A lot has been said and many speculations have been made about the risk of space debris hitting populated area’s. All scientist agreed the odds were incredibly small. Most of the debris would burn up into our atmosphere and those parts surviving the heat would fall into the ocean.
So what exactly is the chance of a Russian satellite fragment hitting a house at Cosmonaut Street on Christmas eve?
Well, from today this chance is 100%.

December 24, 2011 8:12 am

The Russian space debris insurance pays if it comes through your roof?

December 24, 2011 10:39 am

Whats really brilliant about this is that as the photographs zoom in you lose all sense of scale and you could think some of them are of a planets surface.
Just like an episode of ‘UFO’, but sadly without Gabrielle Drake.

December 24, 2011 7:11 pm

A metal sphere fell from space? Uh, guys. I know exactly what it is.
Don’t let any crocodiles get near it.

December 26, 2011 11:19 am

People who remember the movie might be amused.
Unless they are near the point of impact. 😉

Lucas Hardy
January 1, 2012 11:49 pm

OK Here’s the Real McCoy ! , its mine & its FOR SALE ;
U.S.A $8,000,000.00 for the wreckage of the HN-3 missile that KNOCKED DOWN the first satellite in space in 2007, fired by the Chinese military.
Look at all those Electronic components that Satellite security *researchers want to get their hands on for their countries national security.
Cash Sale ; email ;
Japan ; 81 090 27000084

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