Three mysterious metallic objects of various sizes and weights were discovered in northern Vietnam last week. While many were quick to call them “space debris” and blame them on the Russian space program, there has still not been an official and definitive identification of the spheres (trying not to call them “balls” so we can keep this story suitable for work).
Vietnamese media reported the appearances of the spheres on January 2nd. Witnesses in Yen Bai Province claim they saw the first sphere “flying around” at 6:30 am and heard a loud “thunder-like” noise before the six-kg (13 lb) object landed in a garden.
The second object was shaped like a metal ring, weighed just .25 kg (.55 lb) and fell on a house roof in Yen Bai Province 3 km (1.8 miles) away from the first. The last sphere weighed 45 kg (100 lb) and landed in the neighboring province of Tuyen Quang near a stream in a maize field.
That last large sphere is the most famous one, with pictures appearing of Vietnamese military officials taking snapshots of it with their phones (what, no selfies?), demonstrating their strength by attempting to lift it and showing an obvious lack of concern that the object might be radioactive, explosive or from another planet.
What are these objects? The first reports said they resembled specialized compressed air tanks, possibly from rockets, that were made in Russia and may have been sold to and launched by someone else. Professor Nguyen Khoa Son, from the State Space Science and Technology Program, thought they’re were from a failed satellite launch and survived intact because they fell from an altitude of less that 100 km (62 miles).
On the military side, Lieutenant General Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of the General Staff the Vietnam People’s Army, denied early reports that one of the objects had Russian lettering on it, that they were from the Vietnamese army or that they had alien origins.
These devices were made by humans. Competent authorities are working to find out what they really are and will announce an official conclusion soon.
As of this writing, there has been no “official conclusion.” The spheres resemble other objects that fell from the sky over Spain last November and over Namibia in 2011. Those were eventually identified as rocket fuel or oxygen tanks.
As the number of rocket launches – both public and private – increases, the number of these mysterious crashes will too. There’s only one group on Earth that has the power and incentive to tell us once and for all who is responsible for them … personal injury lawyers.