5 Strangest Objects Orbiting the Earth

On January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds into flight and disintegrated off the coast of Florida. The debris field, code named Target 67, covered 480 nautical miles (890 km) of the Atlantic at depths up to 1,210 feet (370 m). Divers discovered that segments of the Space Shuttle, including the crew capsule, had survived the initial catastrophe… …but extreme impact forces upon striking the ocean surface left it “largely a pile of rubble with wires protruding from it.” Among the few intact items recovered was a soccer ball presented to astronaut Ellison Onizuka by Florida’s Clear Lake High School. Following Onizuka’s death in the accident, the ball was returned and displayed until its macabre history was mostly forgotten. It may have faded into obscurity if not for NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough, whose son later attended the same school. In tribute to Onizuka, Kimbrough carried the ball aboard a Soyuz rocket on NASA’s Expedition 50 mission in 2016. While orbiting Earth in the International Space Station, Kimbrough tweeted this photo of the eerie relic in February of 2017… …fulfilling the soccer ball’s mission as a somber reminder of the Challenger disaster for NASA’s Day of Remembrance. In 2006, this lonely figure was jettisoned out of the International Space Station in a creative and impromptu experiment… …entering its own personal orbit and becoming a simple communications satellite nicknamed Mr. Smith, or Ivan Ivanovich. The bizarre “astronaut” was actually a retired Russian Orlan spacesuit with a radio transmitter mounted on its helmet. Its official designation was SuitSat-1, and it was thrown into space by hand during a joint US and Russian spacewalk. Plans called for voice messages recorded in 5 different languages and a secret Slow Scan TV picture to be broadcast towards Earth. Ground-based listeners were told to tune into a frequency of 145.990 MHz, but unfortunately a signal was never received. NASA tracked Mr. Smith for two orbits around the Earth before losing track of the intrepid explorer. It is thought that the batteries in the spacesuit froze and never sustained a signal strong enough for amateur detection. One final confirmed signal was received from SuitSat-1 two weeks after its “launch,” although it continued to circle the globe. It is believed that Mr. Smith succumbed to the harsh conditions of space and burned up in the atmosphere several months later… Upon first seeing the Mir Russian Space Station, NASA astronauts compared it to “six school buses all hooked together”… …as if they had “collided” while being chaotically “driven into a four-way intersection at the same time.” It would take another decade for Americans to be allowed aboard Mir, and their assessment of the interior was no better… …supposedly finding that it was “a bit like a frat house” that was cluttered with broken equipment and floating bags of trash. The description came as no surprise to Earth-based observers who had long witnessed curious activity during Mir spacewalks… …noting that mysterious unidentified “debris objects” seemed to appear during every Mir extravehicular activity. The strangely large objects often appeared unusually lightweight and their movements had very high drag coefficients… …leading many to believe that instead of shipping trash back to Earth, Cosmonauts were merely carrying it out of the airlock. The Russians never admitted to essentially throwing trash out the window, but rumors of orbiting plastic garbage bags persist. Some theorize the trash may have contained secret documents too sensitive to be returned as cargo before Mir was deorbited… In 2014, a Roscosmos official made a startling and unconfirmed claim to the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS… …reporting that Russian Cosmonauts had discovered traces of life living outside on the International Space Station. The find allegedly came during a long-term study of residues that were building up on the exterior of the ISS… …and the samples were supposedly scraped off and collected from one of the windows on the station’s Russian segment. An analysis of the microscopic organisms was said to reveal that they closely resembled sea plankton from Earth… …but it was entirely unclear how the marine life got to space and scientists had no idea where they originally came from. Theories suggested the organisms could have hitched a ride on a rocket or could have somehow welled-up from the atmosphere. Prior high altitude studies have found life carried by air currents as high up as 25 miles (40 km) above the planet’s surface. The 2017 discovery of 4.2B year old fossil bacteria also raised the possibility that life may have arrived on Earth from space. When asked about the Russian find in 2014, NASA dismissed the claim and denied there was ever such an official report… According to UFO researchers, the Black Knight is a satellite which may have been circling Earth for over 13,000 years. Although little is known about the object, it is said to follow a polar-orbit and may be of an extraterrestrial origin. It has been suggested that the Black Knight was first detected during the 1899 radio experiments of Nikola Tesla… …when strange and intelligently repeating radio signals were heard emanating from an unknown source in space. Later reports also allege that the US Air Force eventually detected and began tracking the satellite in 1954… …three years before any nation on Earth had the technical ability to launch such an object into orbit. Rumors state that NASA astronauts subsequently had close calls with the Black Knight during the Mercury missions… …and in 1960, TIME magazine claimed the US Navy detected a dark object thought to be a Soviet spy satellite in the same orbit. The best evidence of the Black Knight’s existence, however, is believed to be this 1998 photo taken from the Endeavor… …showing a mysterious unidentified object during the first space shuttle mission to the International Space Station…

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