The moon is about to collide on Friday (03.04.2022) with three tons of space debris, a hole that will dig a hole in which several trailers can fit.
The remaining rocket will crash into the far side of the Moon at 9,300 km/h, far from the prying eyes of telescopes. It can take weeks, even months, to confirm the effect with satellite images.
Experts believe it has been orbiting space since China launched it nearly a decade ago. But the Chinese authorities suspect that it belongs to him.
Regardless of its identity, scientists expect the object will cause a hole 10 to 20 meters in diameter, sending moon dust hundreds of kilometers from the barren and scarred surface.
Celestial investigators are searching for space debris
It is relatively easy to track space debris in low orbit. Deeper things rarely collide with anything, and these distant pieces are often forgotten, except for a handful of watchers who enjoy playing the celestial detective.
SpaceX originally took over responsibility for the next lunar brood after asteroid tracker Bill Gray determined the collision path in January. He corrected himself a month later, saying the “mysterious” object wasn’t the upper stage of SpaceX’s Falcon rocket from NASA’s 2015 Deep Space Weather Observatory launch.
Gray said it was likely the third stage of a Chinese rocket that sent a test sample capsule to the moon and back in 2014. But Chinese ministry officials said the upper stage reentered Earth’s atmosphere and collapsed.
But there have been two similar Chinese missions — the test flight and the 2020 return to the moon mission — and American observers believe they have confused it.
The US Space Command, which tracks low-lying space debris, confirmed Tuesday that China’s upper stage of the 2014 lunar mission never de-orbited, as previously reported in its database. But he could not confirm the country of origin of the object that was about to collide with the moon.
“We are focusing on the things closest to Earth,” the spokesman said in a statement.
Gray, the mathematician and physicist, said he was now certain it was a Chinese missile. “I’ve become a little more cautious about these issues,” he said. “But I really don’t see how anything else could be.”
However, Gray explained, “It’s not a SpaceX problem, it’s not a China problem. Nobody is particularly keen about what they do with junk in this kind of orbit.”
Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard Center for Astrophysics and the Smithsonian supports Gray’s revised assessment, but notes: “The effect will be the same. It will leave another small crater on the Moon.”
Eternal craters on the moon
The moon already has countless craters, reaching 2,500 km. Since the Moon has no atmosphere, it is defenseless against the constant bombardment of meteors and asteroids, and the occasional spacecraft arriving, including some crashing on purpose for scientific reasons. With no weather, there is no wear, so impact craters are eternal.
China has a lunar lander on the far side of the moon, but it will be too far from detecting Friday’s impact north of the equator. NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will also be out of range. It is also unlikely that the Indian spacecraft, Chandrayaan-2, will pass into orbit around the Moon.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for something (big) to get to the moon,” Gray said. “Ideally, it would hit the near side of the moon, at a point where we can see it.”
FEW (AP, Conversation)
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