London — Indian investigators are checking the theory that the AirIndia jetliner that crashed last month, killing 329 people, might have been hit by the remains of a Soviet space rocket, a news report said today.

In a front-page story headlined “Space Junk Hit Jumbo,” the Daily Mail newspaper said that at almost exactly the same time the jet disappeared from radar screens three huge Soviet booster rockets were reentering the Earth’s atmosphere on the same latitude.

A London defense source said the junk theory was a possibility that could not be ruled out “but neither could one rule out the possibility that the plane was hit by lightning or a passenger went beserk and strangled the pilot.”

A government spokesman said the Defense Ministry was not involved in the crash investigation and could not comment on the Mail story, but “preliminary autopsy reports on the victims show that they were flung forwards against their seat belts as if the aircraft had hit something.”

The newspaper said that on June 23, the day the Boeing 747 crashed, an unmanned Soviet rocket called Progress 24 jettisoned three booster rockets and other equipment including air tanks after docking with a manned Soviet space station.

“Space intelligence investigations in Britain and America show that the rocket motors crossed the path of the jumbo about 15 minutes after it crashed,” the dispatch said. “But the team in India is worried that other pieces of equipment could have come into the atmosphere earlier and hit the jumbo.”

Article extracted from this publication >>  July 26, 1985