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15-foot piece of floating space rocket mystifies brothers fishing off Cayman Islands

The 12-foot by 15-foot piece of fuselage was reported floating off the southwest corner of Cayman Brac.

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By MARK PRICE | The Charlotte Observer | Published: May 27, 2020

(Tribune News Service) — A very large chunk of debris seen floating off the Cayman Islands Thursday is likely a piece of a rocket, according to the Cayman Islands Department of Environment.

The 12-foot by 15-foot piece of fuselage was reported floating off the southwest corner of Cayman Brac, the eastern most island of the Caymans, the department said. It’s about 420 miles south of Miami.

Two brothers, Tyrone and Larry Scott, were fishing May 21 when they saw it, island officials said a Facebook post.

The pair told the Cayman Compass in an interview they thought it might be the hull of a wrecked sailboat.

“It had obviously been drifting for a little while, to have algae growing on it,” the Department of Environment said.

“DoE got the pictures and it looks to us like a piece of an Arianespace rocket, probably launched from French Guiana ... in December last year and possibly with a Hermia satellite on board.”

Officials were able to track down those details using a logo that was still visible on the debris.

Arianespace is headquartered in France and describes itself as “the world’s leading satellite launch company.” It operates launch services out of two spaceports: One in French Guiana, South America, and the other in southern Kazakhstan, according to the company’s website.

“The debris was last seen continuing to drift to the southwest,” Cayman Islands officials said Tuesday.

Tyrone Scott told the Cayman Compass he was “shocked” to find out it was part of a rocket and regrets not dragging it to shore. “I had a 25-foot boat and we were about 300 yards from the bay, so I probably could have towed it,” he told the Compass.

Cayman Islands officials encourage people to take photos of debris seen off the islands and submit them for identification. “Marine or coastal debris” may be picked up if it represents a threat to fish, turtles or sea birds, the department posted.

“If it’s something else interesting, like a 12 ft x 15 ft piece of rocket ship, send us a picture, too, please,” the department added.

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