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…
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 to 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 belongs 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.
Gray advocates for ‘simple steps’
What the confusion over the wayward rocket part shows is that there should be better tracking of deep space junk, Bill Gray, who writes the Project Pluto software to track near-Earth objects, argued.
“Many more spacecraft are now going into high orbits, and some of them will be taking crews to the Moon,” Gray said.
“Such junk will no longer be merely an annoyance to a small group of astronomers.”
“A few fairly simple steps would help quite a bit.”
Does the rocket belong to China?
Last week, China said that the rocket part is NOT theirs.
Bill Gray, who writes the popular Project Pluto software to track near-Earth objects, however, still thinks it’s an old rocket part from a lunar mission dating back to 2014.
His claims have been backed up by Nasa and other experts.
They believe it’s from China’s Chang’e 5-T1 mission, which was used to test technology for bringing samples back from the Moon.
“According to China’s monitoring, the upper stage of the Chang’e-5 mission rocket has fallen through the Earth’s atmosphere in a safe manner and burned up completely,” Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said of the mystery object on course to hit the Moon.
However, experts noticed that China referred to the Chang’e-5 mission, not the similarly named Chang’e 5-T1 mission at the heart of it.
What is the moon made of, continued
The crust that covers the lunar surface is around 42 miles (70 kilometers) thick on average.
Due to all of the huge hits that the moon has received, the outermost section of the crust is fragmented and jumbled, with the shattered zone giving way to intact material below a depth of around 6 miles (9.6 km).
The lunar surface is around 43 percent oxygen, 20 percent silicon, 19 percent magnesium, 10 percent iron, 3 percent calcium, 3 percent aluminum, 0.42 percent chromium, 0.18 percent titanium, and 0.12 percent manganese by weight.
What is the moon made of?
The moon’s core is most likely quite tiny, accounting for just one to two percent of the moon’s mass and measuring around 420 miles (680 kilometers) in diameter, according to Space.com.
It’s probably primarily iron, although it might also contain a lot of sulfur and other metals.
The moon’s rocky mantle is 825 miles (1,330 kilometers) deep and made up of dense iron and magnesium-rich rocks.
For more than a billion years, magma from the mantle rose to the surface and erupted volcanically, from at least four billion years ago to less than three billion years ago.
The moon doesn’t have an atmosphere
This implies that the Moon’s surface is exposed to cosmic rays, meteorites, and solar winds, and experiences extreme temperature swings.
Because there is no atmosphere on the Moon, no sound can be heard, and the sky is constantly pitch black.
Evidence of crash will be ‘lost’
There is no way to have seen the crash happen in real-time, and we won’t know that it happened for sure until satellites orbiting the Moon send back images of a probable crash site.
The rocket booster part also likely broke into thousands of pieces, the BBC reported.
Therefore, much of the physical evidence of where it came from will be lost as well.
Rocket’s last moments
No one will have seen the rocket part’s last moments in real-time, according to the BBC.
Two satellites that orbit the Moon will eventually provide evidence of the crash after they pass over the likely impact site.
The satellites will then photograph the crater that will probably result from the impact.
Does the moon have quakes?
These are caused by the Earth’s gravitational pull, according to Space-Facts.com.
On their journeys to the Moon, astronauts employed seismographs and discovered that minor moonquakes occurred many kilometers beneath the surface, creating ruptures and fissures.
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