“It was lucky that the rocket did not fall on our heads. Otherwise we wouldn’t be sitting here,” said one of the reindeer herders, Per Ola Blind, to news agency TT.
Saarivuoma Sami village has demanded safety improvements to ensure that there is no repeat of the incident.
“Since the NMT network was shut down at the beginning of the year we have no mobile telephone coverage in the area. Esrange can however construct telecom masts so that we can receive text messages and be forewarned when rockets are set to be launched,” said Blind.
Blind was out tending his flock together with a colleague on April 1st when the rocket landed barely a kilometre away with a large boom. They jumped on their snow scooters and headed off to the site to explore.
When they came to the site where the rocket had crashed into the earth they found a large crater.
The rocket was around five metres long and weighed 150 kilograms, according to Olle Norberg of Spaceport Sweden and head of Esrange.
“It was the sonic boom they heard, and I understand that they found it very disturbing. But they were not at any risk,” Norberg said.
Esrange has security procedures that it follows to ensure that no reindeer herders are in the space station’s landing zone. Mikael Viertotak, head of security at Esrange, assured TT that the routines were followed.
But according to Saarivuoma Sami village Esrange did not inform them.
“We should have accompanied Esrange when they scouted the area by helicopter before the launch. But we were not. They never got in touch with me,” said Per-Anders Nutti, the chairperson of Saarivuoma Sami village.
Olle Norberg responded that they attempted to contact Nutti but were unable to get hold of him.
The National Union of Swedish Samis (SSR) and Esrange are now holding discussions with a mobile telecoms operator as to how mobile telephone coverage can be improved in the area.
“There is complete agreement between the Sami village and us that it would be good. And we have masts in the area that could be used,” said Norberg.