SpaceX retrieves space junk from Sask. farmer

Debris landed on farmland instead of burning up in atmosphere

SpaceX has retrieved pieces of debris that fell to earth and were found on Saskatchewan farmland in April.

Barry Sawchuk made headlines earlier this year when he said a giant piece of space debris had slammed into his field. On Tuesday, SpaceX employees came to his farm near Ituna, Sask., northeast of Regina, to collect the space junk.

Sawchuk said the American space manufacturer had reached out to him and asked him to return the debris.

"They're trying to figure out why it's not burning up [in the atmosphere] coming down," he said in an interview.

Sawchuk would not disclose how much money he received for the junk, but said he was satisfied with the compensation, which will go toward helping build a new rink in the community.

"We got something for the skating rink in Ituna and that's what it was always about," he said.

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The two SpaceX employees who arrived at the farm in a U-Haul and loaded up the junk would not give their names or speak with media.!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/original_1180/barry-sawchuk-and-others.jpg

Barry Sawchuk, second from right, stands with space debris that landed on his farm and other farms in the area. (Laura Sciarpelletti/CBC)

The debris was part of a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft that returned to Earth in February with four passengers from the International Space Station.

Sawchuk said five farmers have found at least eight pieces of space junk in the surrounding area.

CBC has reached out to SpaceX multiple times but no one from company has responded.

Samantha Lawler, a University of Regina astronomy professor, was at the farm when SpaceX employees arrived on Tuesday. She said SpaceX needs to be transparent about how its operations are affecting the atmosphere, and how incidents like this are dealt with.

"I was hoping they would tell us a little bit more about just why they're here and what they're going to do with the pieces," Lawler said. "SpaceX is doing nothing to educate the general public about how they're changing the sky for everyone in the world," she said.

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Lawler said there is likely going to be more space junk falling from the sky because of the high density of satellites in the atmosphere.

"It just shows how common this is becoming that that there will be a lot more space junk falling like this. It will cause damage. It will cause deaths. It needs to be better regulated," she said.

This article was written for the CBC by Laura Sciarpelletti and Aishwarya Dudha. With files from the Canadian Press.