Long-lost moon spacecraft may have been found floating in space

The Apollo 10 lunar lander.
The Apollo 10 lunar lander. Photo credit: Getty

An Apollo-era craft thought lost in the depths of interplanetary space may have been found.

And now astronomers want Elon Musk to figure out a way to bring it home.

NASA's Apollo 10 mission reached the moon in May 1969. It was a dress rehearsal for Apollo 11, which two months later saw the first humans ever set foot on the Earth's largest natural satellite.

Apollo 10's lunar lander, nicknamed Snoopy, got within 15km of the moon's surface before returning to the command module. Snoopy was then jettisoned into space, reducing the overall weight of the Apollo craft so it could make it back to Earth with limited fuel.

Considering the sheer scale of space, and the tiny size of the lander - 6.7m tall and 9.4m across - Snoopy was never expected to be found. But now Nick Howes, an astronomer at the UK's Royal Astronomical Society, is "98 percent sure" he's found it.

Howes began looking in 2011, sifting through radar data. He initially calculated the odds of success at 235 million to one, he told The Sunday Times.

"Until someone gets really close to it and gets a detailed radar profile, we can not be sure... I would love to get Elon Musk and his wonderful spacecraft up and grab it and bring it down," Howes said at a recent science festival, Sky News reported.

The lunar landers - which cost US$1 billion in today's money - were either crashed into or left on the moon, or burned up in the Earth's atmosphere.

"It's the only one that's up there that has flown that is left. The Apollo programme was the greatest technical achievement in human history."

But he himself doesn't have the money.

"My day job now takes up vast amounts of my time and it's something I love... I'm maxxed out," he tweeted, after someone suggested starting a crowdfunding effort on Kickstarter.

"Frankly if someone said 'here's $50 million to develop the mission to prove it's Snoopy' I'd genuinely reply, "Here's the details for a very worthy charity... please give it to them.'"



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