What should you do if you find debris from the rocket explosion?

Keep away and call NASA's incident response team, say space agency officials, who warn that remains of the Antares rocket might be hazardous.

An Orbital Sciences Antares rocket explodes in flames during a failed launch on Oct. 28, 2014 from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia. The rocket was carrying an unmanned Cygnus spacecraft filled with 5,000 lbs. of supplies for the International Space Station.

People who live near the Virginia site where a private Antares rocket crashed and burned Tuesday (Oct. 28) should take special care to avoid contacting any of the booster's remains, NASA officials warn.

The rocket, built by Orbital Sciences Corp.exploded in a massive fireball just seconds after blasting off from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's Wallops Island Tuesday evening, scattering debris over a wide area. This debris could be contaminated with rocket fuel or other hazardous material and should thus not be touched, NASA officials said.

"There may be a possibility of debris washing up onto some of the beaches, into some of the areas surrounding the island," Wallops director Bill Wrobel said during a post-crash news conference Tuesday night. "If people do find any debris, or anything that might be suspect — something that doesn't look familiar — we would ask that you stay away from the area and please call our incident response team." [See photos of the Antares rocket explosion]

That team can be reached at (757) 824-1295, Wrobel added.

The two-stage Antares rocket was supposed to launch Orbital Sciences' unmanned Cygnus capsule toward the International Space Station on a cargo mission for NASA. Orbital holds a $1.9 billion deal to fly eight such missions for the space agency. The company has completed two of them without incident; Tuesday's liftoff would have kicked off mission number three, which aimed to send about 5,000 lbs. (2,268 kilograms) of food, scientific experiments and other gear to the orbiting lab.

The crash does not endanger the astronauts aboard the International Space Station, who have plenty of food, water and other critical supplies, NASA officials said. In addition, an unmanned Russian Progress spacecraft launched toward the station early Wednesday from Kazakhstan, carrying about 3 tons of cargo.

Nobody was injured in the Antares explosion, though it did cause some property damage on the south end of Wallops Island, Wrobel said.

Antares' first stage is fueled by liquid oxygen and kerosene. The kerosene likely burned off in the explosion, while the liquid oxygen will dissipate into the atmosphere, said Orbital executive vice president Frank Culbertson.

But the second stage contains potentially hazardous solid fuel that may have survived the blast, and the Cygnus spacecraft's hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide fuel needs to be handled properly as well, Culbertson added.

"We highly encourage people not to try to enter this area or get close to it, either from the water or the land," he said during Tuesday's news conference. "And certainly don't go souvenir hunting along the beach."

Orbital Sciences isn't the only private company to hold a cargo deal with NASA. SpaceX signed a $1.6 billion contract to make 12 unmanned supply runs with its Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX has successfully completed four of these missions to date.

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us@SpacedotcomFacebook or Google+. Originally published on Space.com.

Copyright 2014 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to What should you do if you find debris from the rocket explosion?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today