KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Coast Guard and other national security officials here have been deployed to investigate what has been described a part of a “Russian spacecraft” found in the Tobago Cays this morning.
The discovery comes even as the European Space Agency said on Friday that it had abandoned efforts to contact a Russian space probe, increasing the likelihood that it will plunge to Earth, according to international media reports.
The unnamed Phobos-Ground probe was to head to Mars for a 2½-year mission to take soil samples then fly back to earth. But it became stuck in Earth orbit after its Nov. 9 launch and attempts to send commands that would propel it towards the Mars moon have been unsuccessful.
Russian deputy space chief Vitaly Davydc said last month that if the spacecraft is not sent to Mars, it could fall to Earth something between late December and late February.
Officials here have not confirmed the Tobago Cays finds as belonging to the malfunctioned Russian spacecraft.
But member of a tour group that visited Petit Tabac — part of the uninhabited Tobago Cay Marine Park in the Southern Grenadines — in a call to a radio programme on which Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves was making an impromptu appearance, recounted the discovering of the object.
The man said that his 12-member group arrived on Petit Tabac around 10 a.m. on Tuesday.
“We’ve got an Air France pilot on-board with us. The first thing he pointed out was ‘Look! A fuselage from one of the Airbuses.’ And I actually thought it was the same thing too but when we got onshore and we inspected the thing closer, it [appears to be] a Russian spacecraft …” the caller said.
“… we cannot say whether it is a rocket or not … We have taken photos of all the parts of this craft and all the numbers are consistent. We tried to turn it over on the underside — about 12 of us — and we cannot get the thing to turn. It says here ‘space solutions’ and the writing here is Russian,” the caller told Gonsalves, who is also Minister of National Security and Air Transportation.
A marine park ranger, who was contacted after the discovery, identified himself as Ian and told Gonsalves that the object does have Russian writings.
“I have verified that but to say where exactly it came from or what wreckage it came off of I can’t say that because I am not an expert in that field,” he, however, said, in the same call to the radio programme.
“We will have the persons from the Ministry of National Security to check out and I will get in touch with Permanent Secretary [in the Ministry of National Security Godfred] Pompey. I appreciate very much,” Gonsalves told the callers.
The tour group member said after touching the object they then realised that there might be a possible risk of exposure to radiation.
“Well, you don’t know yet whether there is going to be any radiation. So you can’t presume that yet,” Gonsalves said.
The tour member further told Gonsalves that the object seems to have been broken off recently.
“For me, from the layman’s eyes, it looks like it is freshly broken; probably not from last night but from a week ago,” he said.