- 2:31 ET, Mar 5 2022
- Updated: 2:31 ET, Mar 5 2022
AN OUT-OF-CONTROL rocket part the size of a school bus has likely smashed into the Moon’s surface by now.
According to astronomers, a rocket booster was set to hit the lunar surface at around 7.25am ET (12:25 GMT) after spending nearly eight years tumbling through space.
It was likely the first time a manmade object has crashed into another space body without being aimed there, but we won’t know that it hit the Moon for sure until two satellites that orbit the Moon pass over the possible impact site and photograph any crater that resulted from the collision, the BBC reported.
The rocket part was first spotted by Bill Gray, who writes the popular Project Pluto software to track near-Earth objects.
He reported that the junk was a SpaceX Falcon 9 upper stage launched from Florida by Elon Musk’s team in February 2015.
However, Bill later retracted his claim and said the rocket part most likely belonged to China. China has since denied the accusation.
Read our rocket moon crash live blog for the latest news and updates…
Rocket body’s origin, conclusion
According to CNN, there are at least 26,000 pieces of space junk orbiting Earth that are the size of a softball or larger and could destroy a satellite on impact; over 500,000 marble-sized objects that could cause damage to spacecraft or satellites; and over 100million pieces the size of a grain of salt that could puncture a spacesuit.
Rocket body’s origin, continued
Per CNN, no institutions follow space junk so far from Earth in a systematic fashion.
The mystery surrounding the rocket stage’s origin has highlighted the need for official agencies to more closely monitor deep-space garbage rather than depending on the limited resources of private people and academics.
Experts believe the biggest problem is space debris in low-Earth orbit, where it may smash with operational satellites, generate additional junk, and endanger human life on crewed spacecraft, according to CNN.
Rocket body’s origin
The rocket part’s origin is unknown, according to CNN.
Bill Gray, manager of Project Pluto, originally mistook it for the SpaceX Falcon rocket stage that launched the US Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, in 2015.
He subsequently admitted that he was mistaken and that it was most likely from a 2014 Chinese lunar mission, which NASA concurred with.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the other hand, disputed that the booster was from the Chang’e-5 moon mission, claiming that the rocket had burnt upon reentry to Earth’s atmosphere.
Rocket body company, continued
Bill Gray, the manager of Project Pluto, which provides both commercial and free astronomy software to amateur and professional astronomers, is one of the persons who has made the China link, per Space.com.
“There really is no good reason at this point to think the object is anything other than the Chang’e 5-T1 booster,” Gray told Inside Outer Space last month.
“Anybody claiming otherwise has a pretty large hill of evidence to overcome.”
What company does the rocket body belong to?
The top stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that launched the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) in 2015 was first considered to be the rocket body.
The object, however, is now linked to China’s Long March 3C rocket, which launched China’s Chang’e 5-T1 mission in 2014, according to Space.com.
Chang’e 5-T1 circled beyond the moon and returned to Earth to test the Chang’e 5 lunar sample return mission’s atmospheric re-entry capabilities in 2020.
On behalf of the Luxembourg-based business LuxSpace, Chang’e 5-T1 carried a secondary payload of scientific equipment in the upper stage of the Long March rocket.
SpaceX’s accomplishments include:
- The first privately funded liquid-propellant rocket to reach Earth orbit
- The first private company to successfully launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft
- The first private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station
- The first vertical take-off and vertical propulsive landing for an orbital rocket
- The first reuse of an orbital rocket
- The first private company to send astronauts to orbit and to the International Space Station
- The Falcon 9 series of rockets has been flown over a hundred times by SpaceX
When was SpaceX founded?
Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known widely as SpaceX, is a Hawthorne, California-based aerospace manufacturer, space transportation services provider, and communications company.
Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 with the purpose of lowering space transportation costs so that Mars may be colonized.
The Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles, as well as various rocket engines, the Cargo Dragon, crew spacecraft, and Starlink communications satellites, are all manufactured by SpaceX.
Who is Elon Musk?
Born June 28, 1971, Elon Musk is a business mogul and entrepreneur.
He is the co-founder of Neuralink and OpenAI, as well as the founder, CEO, and Chief Engineer of SpaceX.
Musk is also an early-stage investor, CEO, and Product Architect of Tesla, Inc., and the creator of The Boring Company.
He is the world’s wealthiest individual, according to both the Bloomberg Billionaires Index and the Forbes real-time billionaires list, with an estimated net worth of roughly $224billion as of February 2022.
How far away is the Moon?
The average distance between Earth and the Moon is about 238,855 miles miles (384,400 kilometers), according to NASA.
That means it is about 30 Earths away.
There is a possibility of biocontamination at the crash site, according to David Rothery, a professor of planetary geosciences at The Open University in the United Kingdom.
This is because rocket parts aren’t sterile when launched.
“Most microbes will have died but maybe not all. They’re probably not going to reproduce but it’s a very small risk,” he told CNN.
Crater won’t be the first on the Moon
If the rocket booster creates a crater on the Moon from the impact, it won’t be the only crater on the Moon, CNN noted.
The Moon has no protective atmosphere, so impact craters occur naturally when it’s hit by objects like asteroids regularly.
Collision won’t be ‘observable’
“If it were observable — which, sadly, it won’t be — you would see a big flash, and dust and disintegrated rocket bits and pebbles and boulders thrown out, some of it for hundreds of kilometers,” Bill Gray told CNN of the rocket booster and its imminent collision with the Moon.
Gray was the first to spot the path of the rocket booster and writes the popular Project Pluto software to track near-Earth objects.
How to send your name around the moon
You need to go to Nasa’s official website for the Artemis mission.
That’s available here.
You need to enter your name and a custom PIN, which will generate your boarding pass.
The PIN needs to be 4 to 7 digits.
Remember the PIN, as this will allow you access your boarding pass in the future.
Exact time of collision
The rocket booster was likely hit the Moon at 12:25:58 Universal Time on March 4, 2022, Forbes reported.
The four-tonne rocket part probably hit the Moon’s surface at a speed of about 5,700 mph.
European Space Agency comments
The European Space Agency commented on the possible collision of the rocket booster and the Moon’s surface before it was set to occur.
“This still-evolving finding underscores the need for enhanced space tracking, and greater data sharing between spacecraft operators, launch providers, and the astronomy and space surveillance communities,” the agency wrote.
Has space junk hit the Moon before?
As part of its LCROSS mission, in 2009 Nasa deliberately smashed a rocket booster into the Moon in hopes of learning something from the debris it left behind.
“In essence, this is a ‘free’ LCROSS… except we probably won’t see the impact,” Bill Gray, who writes the popular Project Pluto software to track near-Earth objects, wrote in January.
Impact won’t be visible
The rocket part was xpected to hit the Moon on March 4, where it will leave a crater about 65 feet in diameter on the surface but unfortunately, it won’t be possible to see the impact live as the tumbling rocket part is expected to hit the Moon’s far side – the part that faces away from Earth.
Instead, astronomers will rely on images taken by satellites including Nasa’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to view what happens after the collision.
Who predicted the collision, continued
“Back in 2015, I (mis)identified this object as 2015-007B, the second stage of the DSCOVR spacecraft,” Gray wrote on February 12.
“We now have good evidence that it is actually 2014-065B, the booster for the Chang’e 5-T1 lunar mission.”
Who predicted the collision?
In January, space trackers calculated that a piece of manmade debris was on course to hit the Moon and it was first spotted by Bill Gray, who writes the popular Project Pluto software to track near-Earth objects.
He reported that the junk was a SpaceX Falcon 9 upper stage launched from Florida in February 2015.
It was on a mission to deploy an Earth observation satellite called DSCOVR for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
However, Gray later retracted his claim and said the rocket part most likely belonged to China, and China has since denied the accusation.
Professor Jonathan McDowell from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics told BBC News he agrees with Gray’s re-assessment that the rocket part most likely belonged to China instead.
He said there is lots of “intrinsic uncertainty” in identifying space debris and errors in identification can occur.
“We rely on a small handful of volunteers who do it on their own time,” he explained to the BBC.
“So there is limited scope for cross-checking.”
Impact on the Moon
The collision of the rocket booster and the Moon is expected to produce a cloud of debris and leave behind a small crater.
However, no serious damage is expected to occur.
What is the rocket booster?
The object is probably part of a rocket that launched a small Chinese spacecraft, called Chang’e 5-T1, towards the Moon in 2014.
Bill Gray, who writes the popular Project Pluto software to track near-Earth objects, originally reported that the junk was a SpaceX Falcon 9 upper stage launched from Florida in February 2015.
However, Bill later retracted his claim and said the rocket part most likely belonged to China instead.
China has since denied the accusation.
Where did the rocket hit?
The collision likely occurred on the far side of the Moon.
The one-tonne hunk of space junk was previously traveling at around 2.6 km per second.
Craft may hit near crater
The rocket booster may have specifically crashed near a crater called Hertzsprung, according to Forbes.
It’s on the far side of the Moon, so any impact won’t be visible from Earth.
Moon crash confusion
People on social media were confused on Friday about the rocket part, and whether it had actually crashed on the moon or not.
“Anyone know if the #moon crash has happened?” one person wrote.
“Doesn’t something crash into the moon today?? ??” another person tweeted.