On September 3, 2002, amateur astronomer Bill Yeung discovered an object that he believed was a never-before-seen asteroid in a rapid orbit around Earth. While it’s easy for massive planets such as Jupiter to frequently capture objects like asteroids and comets, Earth is smaller and has less gravitational oomph with which to influence interplanetary passersby.
Yeung’s discovery, formally named J002E3, became the focus of an intense analysis with a unique result. The object was not an asteroid captured by Earth in a cosmic game of coincidence. This was a relic of humanity’s space race: an Apollo-era rocket that had been