A team of amateur astronomers have teamed up with scientists at the University of Glamorgan to search for a Lunar Module known as “Snoopy” sent off during Apollo 10 in May 1969.
Snoopy was sent off in an orbit around the Sun, and it is still traveling through space somewhere.
The Faulkes Telescope team is working with other astronomers and schools to try and find Snoopy.
“The whole history of Apollo is remarkable and include some of the most inspiring scientific and explorative missions in history” Nick Howes, a U.K. amateur astronomer working on the project, said in a press release. “After the success of our recent asteroid detection project, where we regularly discovered extremely faint, fast-moving objects, we were considering what we could do next.”
Other attempts to find Snoopy have had no success, but the team is aware of the challenge and ready to give the search another go.
“To say it´s like finding a needle in a haystack is doing a disservice to the haystack,” Dr. Paul Roche, head of astronomy at Glamorgan University said in a press release. “Whilst there are records of the last known movements and orbital information for Snoopy, this is going back over 40 years.”
“The module has been affected by the gravity of the Sun, Earth and Moon for all that time, and all sorts of other factors mean we need to search a very big chunk of sky for this thing,” Roche added.
The project will attempt to post regular coordinate data which the teams will then examine on a daily basis.
“There will be a huge search field to examine, so this is not something which will happen overnight. It could take weeks, months, years – or we may possibly never find it,” Dr. Sarah Roberts, Education Director of the Faulkes Telescope Project at Glamorgan said in the press release. “But we´re going to try, and as a bonus, the areas we´ll be searching will hopefully throw up new asteroids, so there will be useful results whether we find Snoopy or not.”
The team will use NASA archives to determine the last known speed and direction of the module. They said they are encouraged by the re-discovery of the Apollo 12 third stage rocket in 2002.
The team will also be working with Mike Loucks of “Space Exploration Engineering.”
“When I first heard about this project I was very intrigued. I did similar work in 2003 to investigate the trajectory of an Apollo 12 Saturn V rocket stage,” Loucks, who worked to reconstruct the Apollo 13 trajectory in 2000, said in a press release.
“Using the techniques from both of those cases, along with some advanced trajectory tools we use to fly real lunar missions; hopefully we can narrow down the search areas to something manageable and give the team a fighting chance of finding Snoopy.”
Image Caption: Ascent stage of Apollo 10 Lunar Module seen from Command module Description: The ascent stage of the Apollo 10 Lunar Module (LM) is photographed from the Command Module prior to docking in lunar orbit. The LM is approaching the Command and Service Modules from below. The LM descent stage had already been jettisoned. The lunar surface in the background is near, but beyond the eastern limb of the moon as viewed from earth (about 120 degrees east longitude). The red/blue diagonal line is the spacecraft window. ID: AS10-34-5112 Credit: NASA Johnson Space Center (NASA-JSC)
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