FREEPORT, Texas -- Police are working with federal agencies to return a piece of space debris that washed up in Freeport.
Usually returning lost items to rightful owners simply involves paperwork, officers said. However, what Freeport Police have behind their station is hardly usual.
It is hard to miss their four-foot long, ragged-edged, dying barnacle covered discovery sitting on a trailer.
“This was a first for us,” said Chief Daniel Pennington.
It is so rare, even Chief Pennington’s 31 years sniffing out fraud and seizing drugs can’t tell you what happens next.
“We’ve never had anything like this, something as complicated like with and actually something that involved as many agencies as this item has," Chief Pennington said.
Last week, an officer sent Chief Pennington photos of debris found near Bryan Beach Park. Investigators believe it floated in the Gulf of Mexico for roughly two weeks.
“We couldn’t tell was it from a boat,” Chief Pennington said. “Was it from a plane? To be honest, off the top of our heads, we didn’t even consider a piece of space aircraft.”
When they sent photos to the Federal Aviation Administration for assistance, an FAA database search matched the smeared logo to a company 3,200 miles away in South America called Ariane. It is French Guiana’s version of Space X.
The company launched a rocket into space on Valentine’s Day. Instead of burning up on re-entry, a piece of the rocket’s debris made it to Freeport.
“That’s where it gets a little complicated,” Chief Pennington said.
He wants to return the debris to Ariane. However, the FBI, NSA, NASA and the U.S. State Department all want information from the company before it happens.
While they work out agreements, Freeport police do not mind keeping their find.