NASA's Snoopy Lunar Module That Has Been Lost in the Vastness of Space for 50 Years May Have Been Found

A team of astronomers say they may have identified the location of the lost lunar module from Apollo 10—the space mission that was considered the "dress-rehearsal" for the first moon landing.

Two months before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon in July 1969, astronauts Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan flew the lunar module—nicknamed after the cartoon dog "Snoopy"—to within about 50,000 feet of the moon's surface in preparation for the upcoming Apollo 11 mission.

Once this objective was achieved, the astronauts re-docked with the command module—dubbed "Charlie Brown," Snoopy's owner in the same cartoon—to demonstrate this procedure, before the lunar module was jettisoned off into space.

Since then, Snoopy's location has remained a mystery, but now a group of scientists led by amateur astronomer Nick Howes—a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in the U.K.—say they are "98 percent convinced," that they have found it, Sky News reported.

In 2011, Howes and his team launched a project to locate Snoopy in the vastness of space. The scientists recognized from the start the scale of the challenge before them—in fact, Howes himself has estimated that the odds of locating the module were around 235 million to one.

In the subsequent years, the astronomers analyzed terabytes of data collected by various observatories covering a huge chunk of the night sky in their bid to find Snoopy.

"We are relatively confident [that we have located the module,]" Howes told Newsweek. "The heliocentric orbit looks good, the object is artificial, and the size is right."

However, the team stress that they cannot be certain about their findings until further observations are made.

"Until someone gets really close to it and gets a detailed radar profile, we can't be sure," Howes told attendees at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the U.K., according to Sky.

"We've got to wait quite a few years for it to come back but once it does come back the idea is that we are going to get a really detailed picture of it," he said. "It would be a really fantastic achievement for science."

Howes said that definitively locating the lunar module would be a fitting way to honor the historic importance of the Apollo 10 mission.

"People say 'what's the point?' From a space archaeology point of view, it's interesting," Howes said. "It's the only one that's up there that has flown that is left. The Apollo programme was the greatest technical achievement in human history."

"Anyone of a certain age will know exactly what they were doing on July 20 1969. It's the Kennedy moment. "As a piece of history, a moment in history, this is a unique artefact."

Furthermore, Howes noted that a company like Elon Musk's SpaceX could be capable of retrieving Snoopy.

"I would love to get Elon Musk and his wonderful spacecraft up and grab it and bring it down," Howes said. "As Apollo 10 crew member Eugene Cernan said to me, 'Son, if you find that and bring it down, imagine the queues at the Smithsonian?'"

Snoopy, Apollo 10, lunar module
The Apollo 10 lunar module Snoopy flying above the moon's surface, taken from the main Apollo 10 Command Service Module (CSM) Charlie Brown. Apollo 10 was the full dress rehearsal for the moon landing that took place two months later in July of 1969. Getty