Unexplained: The explosive mystery of Lan Chile flight LA801 from Santiago to Auckland in March 2007

Not even NASA had any answers.
Not even NASA had any answers. Photo credit: Newshub (File)

Earlier this month the world's attention was focused on an out of control Chinese space rocket making its way back to Earth.

Predictions as to where Long March-5b was going to crash into terra firma were changing by the minute, but at one stage it appeared that New Zealand was in the firing line.

The debris eventually landed in the Indian Ocean, seen by no one. 

But that wasn't the case back in 2007 when similar debris came back to Earth.

On the evening of March 27 that year a Lan Chile Airbus A340 was flying from Santiago, Chile to Auckland, a route the airline operated most days.

Flight LA801 is nearly 13 hours long and almost entirely over water. 

At 30,000 feet, the crew began seeing large, meteor-like objects and what appeared to be explosions as the fireballs whizzed past at a distance of just 9km from the aircraft.

The crew notified Auckland's Oceanic air traffic control centre via radio.

Even more alarmingly, the crew said they could hear the rumbling noise coming from the objects over the loud sound of the aircraft, according to reports at the time.

Initially it was thought the unidentified whizzing objects were part of a Russian space rocket that was due to crash down to Earth the following day.

"Upon looking back at the area of impact at a later point, the pilots could still see the explosions. The whole event of sighting these objects lasted approximately one and a half hours," the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) told Newshub.

Approximate area of sightings
Approximate area of sightings Photo credit: Civil Aviation Authority

However, investigations by both NASA and Russian space authorities discovered the suspect space debris had not reentered the atmosphere at the time of these mystery sightings. 

Information obtained by Newshub has revealed an explanation for the incident has never been found.

"There was no final determination as to what phenomenon was observed during this reported event. However, there was no evidence to suggest that it was the re-entry of the Russian spacecraft," a CAA statement said.

"There was a single report of an unusually slow meteor witnessed in Auckland during the same period but this allegation was not verified. The investigation was ultimately not pursued further by the CAA as all NOTAM and air traffic services were issued and provided in accordance with ICAO requirements.

"The US Space Surveillance Network databases were checked to determine whether another satellite may have fallen back to earth at the time and location reported. However, there was no such possibility."