By Tamsin Brown • 06 March 2022 • 17:20
Apollo 16 astronauts, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
A piece of a rocket has crashed into the far side of the moon for what is probably the first time.
A piece of a rocket launched years ago crashed into the Moon on March 4. It was probably the first time a piece of a spacecraft has hit the Moon accidentally.
The impact took place at 12.25pm UTC on the far side of the Moon, near the equator, out of view of ground-based telescopes and probably also far from the immediate view of NASA‘s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).
The impact was predicted in late January by Bill Gray, who writes the Project Pluto software widely used to track near-Earth objects, asteroids, minor planets and comets.
He identified the culprit as the second stage of a Space X Falcon 9 rocket launched in 2015. The rocket sent a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite into an orbit 1.5 million kilometres from Earth, nearly five times further than the Moon. Lacking the fuel to return to Earth and to escape the gravity of the Earth-Moon system, the rocket stage remained in a chaotic orbit for years before the collision finally happened.
In mid-February, Gray himself changed his opinion on the origin of the object that was headed for the Moon and said that it belonged to the Chinese experimental lunar mission Chang’e 5-T1, launched in October 2014. The mission used a Long March 3C/G2 rocket. This has since been denied by the Chinese government.
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Originally from London, Tamsin is based in Malaga and is a local reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering Spanish and international news.
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