Monday, June 8, 2015

Charleston tech execs on vacation find SpaceX rocket wreckage likely carrying GoPro video of fall from space

Footage likely came from cameras pulled out of washed up wreckage

Posted by Sam Spence on Mon, Jun 8, 2015 at 2:37 PM

click to enlarge Kevin Eichelberger (L-to-R), Nate Dapore, and Grier Allen managed a stellar beach find on a recent vacation in the Bahamas - PROVIDED BY KEVIN EICHELBERGER
  • Provided by Kevin Eichelberger
  • Kevin Eichelberger (L-to-R), Nate Dapore, and Grier Allen managed a stellar beach find on a recent vacation in the Bahamas

A piece of SpaceX wreckage found by three Charleston tech company executives in the surf while on vacation in the Bahamas was likely the source of a dramatic video from outer space posted this weekend by the aerospace company.

click to enlarge A close-up of the GoPro housing - PROVIDED BY KEVIN EICHELBERGER
  • Provided by Kevin Eichelberger
  • A close-up of the GoPro housing

On May 29, Blue Acorn CEO Kevin Eichelberger, Boomtown CEO Grier Allen, and PeopleMatter CEO Nate Dapore spotted a piece of debris off the coast of Elbow Cay that appeared to be a spaceship-looking carbon fiber panel. Labels on a portion of the debris indicated it was from a SpaceX rocket. SpaceX is an American space exploration startup created by PayPal and Tesla founder Elon Musk that hopes to send rockets into outerspace for far less money than is currently possible.

Upon further inspection, they found metal housings with lenses peeking out that turned out to be GoPro video cameras, popular for capturing first-person action sports footage. Being a nice guy and all, Eichelberger tweeted at Musk that they had found his rocket and left it at that. The guys did manage to pry out the cameras and pop the memory cards into their computers, naturally, but it didn't look like anything was stored on the cards.

click to enlarge PROVIDED BY KEVIN EICHELBERGER
  • Provided by Kevin Eichelberger

A couple days later, Musk responded, thanking the guys and letting them know that the report "is helpful for figuring out fairing reusability." (Fairings are used in aeronautics to reduce drag and SpaceX says they use them to enclose payloads for the trip into space, when they're jettisoned and fall back to earth.) It's cool enough to have touched something that likely fell from space and have it acknowledged by a guy who moonlights making science fiction into reality, right? Allen responded back to Musk, saying they're sending the gear back to SpaceX, along with well-wishes for their galactic booty.

Well, fast forward to Friday, and a new video entitled, "Falling Back to Earth." The video shows a GoPro mounted on a recent spaceflight as it descends back to earth, majestically set to "Blue Danube," a la 2001: A Space Odyssey. We haven't gotten any official confirmation that the video is the same video salvaged from the likely encrypted memory cards by the Charleston crew, but Eichelberger did say that he got a "yup" from Musk when he asked.

Reacting to the video on Twitter, Eichelberger said in disbelief, "Still can't believe I touched something that's had such a beautiful adventure." Click over to @kpe for a full account of the week's events.

The finding also managed to touch off chatter on the web over Musk's mention of fairing reusability. It's been no secret that SpaceX has been trying to develop reusable spacecraft to keep manufacturing costs down, but confirmation that the company is also curious about the reuse the rocket fairings is a bit of news.

Chatter on Reddit points to the wreckage likely coming from an April 27 Falcon 9 launch that carried a Turkmenistan satellite into orbit. SpaceX has reportedly dispatched a crew to retrieve the debris from the small island.

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