Rocket debris washes ashore on Hilton Head Island - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Rocket debris washes ashore on Hilton Head Island

By Michelle Paynter - bio | email

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC (WTOC) - What goes up, must come down. And over the weekend a piece of a rocket washed up on the beach on Hilton Head Island.

And as you can imagine it created quite a spectacle.

Jerry Gentile and girlfriend Carol Kreider were relaxing on the beach at Palmetto Dunes when they got caught up in some unexpected excitement Saturday.

"It was kind of exciting, I saw something float by our condo during supper and I kept telling Carol there was something going on out there," said Gentile. "And she said we paid a lot for this shrimp, finish eating."

But Gentile had to take a closer look. He took pictures with his cell phone. So did many other folks.

Turns out it was a piece of a rocket that washed ashore, a rocket made in France.

"There were all kinds of sound-dampening devices adhered to the inside," said Gentile.

The space debris sat on the beach surrounded by deputies and caution tape until Sunday night. That's when crews moved it to the Hilton Head Island Fire and Rescue Headquarters.

While it looks like a giant piece of metal, experts say it's actually pretty buoyant. It has a honeycomb material on the inside and a yellow material on top feels like insulation.

Now it's up to Hilton Head's emergency management coordinator Paul Rasch to find out more about what it is. He's been on the phone with folks in Europe and from NASA.

"It appears to be a portion of the outer skin on an Ariane rocket, they found some identification marks they were able to check," said Rasch.

Ariane is a European company that makes rockets.

Having it wash up on the beach has made this trip to Hilton Head very memorable for Gentile and Kreider. They couldn't wait to start sending photos to their family.

"I've sent it to my daughter her son and anybody else who has a cell phone to receive a picture, I said french rocket debris and they say what does it mean," Gentile said.

Gentile and others still don't know for sure what it means or where exactly it came from. They are all curious to find out.

Gentile and WTOC did some checking on the internet to try to learn more about where this rocket may have come from. According to the BBC, an Ariane 5 rocket launched from French Guiana in northern South America just three days ago.

No word yet on if the debris came from that rocket.

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