NASA has photographed the crash site of the mysterious rocket that crashed into the far side of the moon in March, and the unidentified spacecraft left behind a strange double crater that baffled scientists.
Images of the crash site were captured by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) on May 25 and chest On June 24. The images show that the stray wreck (whose origins are still disputed) somehow caused two overlapping holes when the wreck collided on the far side of the moon Traveling at 5,770 mph (9,290 km/h).
Unexpected double pits add an extra layer of weirdness to a puzzle that has baffled space watchers since January, when Bill Gray, an American astronomer and developer of software that tracks near-Earth objects, predicted that an orbiting piece of space junk would crash into the far side of the moon within months, Live Science previously reported. When Gray first discovered the wreck, he suggested it was the second stage of the Falcon X rocket that Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched in 2015. But subsequent observations and analyzes of orbital data hinted that the object was Spent the upper stage of the Chinese Chang’e 5-T1 missileSpace ship (Named after the Chinese goddess of the moon) which was launched in 2014. However, Chinese officials did not agree, claiming that the upper stage of this missile burned out. Earth Joe years ago.
So far, at least 47 NASA rocket bodies have crashed into the moon, according to Arizona State UniversityBut the ‘double crater was unexpected’ NASA wrote in a statement. “No other rocket object on the Moon has produced double craters.”
Although scientists couldn’t directly observe the moment of impact, experts predicted that the discarded rocket stage had hit the lunar surface at Hertzsprung crater on the far side of the moon, on March 4 at 7:25 a.m. ET United States (12:25 GMT). Observations from the LRO show the lunar indentation – the eastern crater is 59 feet (18 m) wide, and the western crater is 52.5 feet (16 m) wide. If NASA’s LRO had been positioned to capture images of the collision, it would likely have documented a plume of lunar dust hundreds of miles high.
Scientists are still hypothesizing what may have created the two craters. NASA representatives said one possibility is that the craters formed from a piece of debris that had two large masses at each end – although that scenario would be unusual.
“The spent rocket mass is usually concentrated at the end of the engine, while the rest of the rocket stage consists mainly of an empty fuel tank,” the statement said.
Is it really the Chang’e 5-T1 booster?
Since the booster rocket will likely disintegrate completely upon impact, it is uncertain whether an investigation of the craters will provide any significant clues to its controversial source. But some astronomers believe most of the mystery has already been unraveled. grey wrote on his blog Soon after the images were published, the object was conclusively identified as the Chang’e 5-T1 enhancer.
“I’m absolutely convinced there’s no way it could be anything else,” Gray told Live Science. “At this point, we rarely get something so certain.”
Gray made his first prediction that controversial debris would collide with the Moon after it was spotted tumbling into space in March 2015. The object (designated with the temporary name WE0913A) was first illuminated by the Catalina Sky Survey, a group of telescopes near Tucson , Arizona, which is examining our cosmic neighborhood for dangerous asteroids that could collide with Earth. However, WE0913A was not about the sunSuch as asteroid But it was orbiting the Earth instead. Gray suspects that the body is man-made.
After misidentifying the mysterious trash as a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, Gray returned to the data to find that another spacecraft was close to the debris path bound for the moon: the upper stage of China’s Chang’e 5-T1 mission, which launched in October 2014 As part of an initial mission to send a test capsule to the Moon and back.
Chinese Foreign Ministry officials have denied that the space junk is theirs, insisting that the Chang’e 5 missile did indeed burn up on the return flight to Earth in 2014. But US experts have disputed the claim, noting that Chinese officials might confuse the 2014 missile with a similar one. From the 2020 mission, this first one hit the moon. On March 1, the US Department of Defense’s Space Command, which tracks space junk in low Earth orbit, issued a statement They say that the 2014 Chinese missile did not de-orbit.
Gray believes his orbit data, a near perfect match to the Chinese missile’s initial trajectory, is conclusive.
“An enormous number of lunar missions are in orbit; its tilt means that, in the past, it has been heading over China; it has been heading east the way Chinese lunar missions do; and its estimated launch time is within 20 minutes of the Chang’e 5-T1 rocket” Gray said.
An amateur radio satellite (or “Cubesat”) was connected to Chang’e 5-T1 during its first 19 days of flight, and trajectory data sent from that satellite exactly matched the current trajectory of the missile debris, according to Gray. . Others have also identified important evidence supporting Gray’s conclusion; NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Center for Near-Earth Object Studies has confirmed Gray’s analysis of orbital data, and a team from the University of Arizona identified the rocket as part of the Chang’e 5-T1 mission by analyzing the spectrum of light reflected by coatings on the shattered debris. .
Although this is the first piece of unwanted alien space to inadvertently crash into the moon, it’s not the first time a man-made satellite has crashed there. In 2009, NASA’s Crater Monitoring and Sensing Satellite was intentionally launched into the moon’s south pole at 5,600 mph (9,000 km/h), releasing a plume that enabled scientists to detect chemical signatures of water ice. NASA also got rid of the Apollo’s Saturn 5 rockets by blasting them to the moon.
Gray said the confusion surrounding the object’s identity highlights a real need for space-faring agencies and private companies everywhere to develop better procedures for tracking the rockets they send into deep space (which would also prevent such objects from mistaking it for Earth-threatening asteroids). .
“From my selfish point of view, it will help us better track asteroids,” Gray said. “The care given to LEO satellites hasn’t been applied to LEO ones because people have figured out it doesn’t really matter. And I hope the United States now considers going back to the Moon and other countries sending things there too, that might change. Situation “.
Originally published on Live Science.