3-Ton Rocket Crashed into the Moon
A piece of a 2.7-ton rocket is thought to have hit the Moon at 9,288 km/h yesterday at around 3 p.m. after at least seven years in space.
It is estimated that this piece, which was thrown after the rocket was launched, hit the Hertzsprung crater in the invisible part of the Moon yesterday at 15:25. Scientists believe that the energy from the collision could open a 20-metre-wide crater. As a result of the collision, a dust cloud reaching a height of hundreds of kilometers may have emerged.
Scientists think it’s the first time a space junk has hit the surface of the Moon. But since the collision occurred on the far side of the Moon, it could take months for scientists to locate the crater, confirm the collision, and perhaps find clues that could untangle the controversial causes of the collision.
The planet, which has been in space for more than seven years, the debris is, according to many experts, the top part of a rocket launched during one of China’s first missions to the Moon in 2014. However, Chinese officials, who say that this piece used during the launch burned in the Earth’s atmosphere years ago, rejects the claims. The rocket was previously thought to belong to SpaceX.
US astronomer Bill Gray, the developer of the asteroid tracking software Project Pluto, says he is sure that the object that hit the Moon was a Chinese rocket.
“It can’t possibly be anything else,” Gray says. “At this point, we rarely see anything so precise.”
Gray predicted that the debris would hit the Moon for the first time in March 2015, when the debris was seen traveling through space. The object, tentatively named WE0913A, was detected by the Catalina Sky Observation Program, a telescope array in the US state of Arizona that scans the sky for dangerous asteroids that could hit Earth. But WE0913A does not revolve around the Sun the way an asteroid does. The Earth’s rotation led Gray to suspect that the object was man-made.
The object was initially thought to be SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, but when Gray re-examined the data, he found another spacecraft that was very similar to the orbit of this debris due to the gravity of the Moon: This vehicle was the seat of a test capsule to be sent to the Moon and returned in October 2014. It was the upper part of China’s Chang’e 5-T1 space mission, launched as part of a preliminary mission.
Chinese foreign ministry officials, who deny that the space garbage belongs to them, state that the Chang’e 5 rocket burned up as it re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere. But US experts think that Chinese officials may be confusing the rocket launched in 2014 with a rocket launched in 2020, and that the object that hit the Moon yesterday was the first rocket. The Space Command of the US Department of Defense, which monitors space debris in the lower orbit of the Earth, released a statement on Tuesday confirming that the rocket launched by China in 2014 never left orbit.
Gray thinks the orbital data, which matches almost perfectly with the initial trajectory of the Chinese rocket, are precise.
“It was in orbit with a lot of Moon missions before, judging by its inclination, it had sailed over China in the past, it was eastbound like China’s Moon missions, and its estimated launch time was close to 20 minutes for the Chang’e 5-T1 rocket,” Gray says.
Gray says that an amateur radio satellite was attached to Chang’e 5-T1 for the first 19 days of its flight, and the orbital data sent from the satellite perfectly matched the current trajectory of the rocket debris. Others have found important clues as well. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Center for Near-Earth Objects studies confirms Gray’s analysis of orbital data. A research team at the University of Arizona determined from the spectrum of light reflected from the paint of the rocket that it was part of the Chang’e 5-T1 mission.
The collision will not be visible from Earth for a while, as space debris hits the equatorial region on the far side of the Moon. Satellites orbiting the Moon, such as NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Vehicle and India’s Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft, will be in an orbit where they can see the crater after a while. It may take months for scientists to identify this new hole in the Moon. But the researchers found that the images, as well as the contents of the Moon under the surface; He hopes it will also help to better understand how the Moon’s shape changes when an object of known velocity and mass is struck.
Considering the rocket’s travel speed, it’s likely to leave some evidence beyond the formed crater. Within milliseconds, when the rocket hit the Moon, a shock wave must have spread and the exploding metal shattered.
While this is the first space debris to accidentally hit the Moon, there is also a man-made satellite that has hit the Moon before. NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Detection Satellite was deliberately fired at the Moon’s south pole at 9,000 km/h in 2009, revealing a cloud that allowed scientists to detect chemical signatures of water ice. NASA also disposed of the Saturn V rockets belonging to the Apollo program by firing them at the Moon.
According to Gray, this confusion about the identity of the object shows that all countries and companies traveling in space should better follow the rockets they send into the depths of space. In this way, both the objects in question are not thought to be asteroids that threaten the Earth, and the area around the Earth is kept clean.
“From my own selfish point of view, this event will help us better track asteroids,” Gray says. “We don’t pay as much attention to satellites in high orbit as those in low orbit because people think they’re not that important. Now, with the US planning to go back to the Moon and other countries sending stuff there, I hope that attitude will change.”