A mystery unfolded Monday when an astronaut with the International Space Station (ISS) reported a curious object floating around the Progress 52 cargo ship outside of the station. Today, the previously unidentified flying object has been identified as nothing more than an antenna cover.
NASA TV posted a video of the object on their YouTube channel. The 70 second video shows a strange yellow object hovering in the darkness of space, just outside of the station. It looks like a strange extraterrestrial ship or a jellyfish-like alien bouncing around and exploring the station, but the reality is far less spectacular.
“Earlier this morning [August 19], Chris Cassidy had noted an object that was floating past the station near the station’s Progress 52 cargo ship,” says the video’s narrator. “That object has been identified by Russian flight controllers as an antenna cover from the Zvezda service module.”
Progress 52 is an unmanned resupply ship that launched via a Russian Soyuz rocket in late July from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It shuttled almost 3 tons worth of supplies to the Expedition 36 team currently aboard the ISS. Eventually it will detach from its docking point at the ISS’s Pirs port and the disposable Progress ship will burn up over the Pacific Ocean.
The Zvezda service module, on the other hand, is Russia’s contribution to the makeup of the ISS and the first step towards creating habitable sectors for astronauts. It contains the station’s entire life support system. It was also launched from the Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in 2000.
As for Cassidy, the 43-year-old American astronaut has served as part of the 6 person team aboard the ISS since March of this year. He arrived on the station with Expedition 35, serving as a flight engineer. He, along with Russian crewmates Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin, were the first to take an expedited trip to the ISS. They arrived at the station in a mere 6 hours.
While Cassidy’s discovery wasn’t humanity’s first contact with extraterrestrial life, it does go to show that there is never a dull moment on the ISS.