Earth’s next mini-moon might be space junk from the 1960s

A Centaur rocket sends NASA’s Surveyor 1 mission to the Moon in 1966. A few months later, a similar Centaur rocket would launch Surveyor 2. Researchers think that a newly-discovered asteroid could be the booster from the Surveyor 2 mission. | NASA

Earth is about to get a temporary mini-moon — and this one might be space junk. Researchers are tracking an object that looks like it will be captured by Earth’s gravity for just a few months this winter before safely heading back out into the Solar System. It might be a standard asteroid, but some astronomers say that the mystery object’s path indicates that it could be a part of a 1960s era rocket.

“I’m pretty jazzed about this,” Paul Chodas, the manager of NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies told The Associated Press. Chodas is one of the world’s leading experts on asteroids and has been on the lookout for returning space debris for decades, he told the AP.

The object was first identified last month by researchers in Hawaii….

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