Whatever hit the moon in March left a double crater • The Register

picture When space debris crashed onto the moon earlier this year, it left not one but two craters on the lunar surface, according to images released by NASA on Friday.

Astronomers predicted a mysterious object would strike the moon on March 4 after tracking the debris for months. The object was large and believed to be a spent launch vehicle from the China National Space Agency’s Long March 3C vehicle that launched the Chang’e 5-T1 spacecraft in 2014.

The details are blurry. Space agencies tend to monitor debris closer to home and don’t really keep tabs on what might contaminate other planetary objects. It was difficult to confirm the nature of the crash; Experts estimated that it would likely leave a crater. Now NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has picked up telltale signs of an impact on the surface. Images captured by the probe show a strange peanut shell-shaped hole on the moon’s surface, thought to have been caused by the Chinese garbage.


The peanut-like craters… Photo credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

“Surprisingly, the crater actually consists of two craters, an eastern crater (18 meters in diameter, about 19.5 yards) overlying a western crater (16 meters in diameter, about 17.5 yards),” NASA said. To our knowledge, no other lunar collision of a rocket body has ever created two craters. The strange ditch suggests that what struck the moon had a peculiar structure.

“The double crater was unexpected and could indicate that the rocket body had large masses at each end. Typically, a spent rocket has mass concentrated at the motor end; the rest of the rocket stage consists mainly of an empty fuel tank. The rocket body remains uncertain, the dual nature of the crater could indicate its identity,” added the US space agency.

Bill Gray, a software developer for professional astronomers who first predicted the impact, mistakenly thought the object was a rogue part of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket that launched NASA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory. He later changed his mind and still believes it came from China’s Long March 3C rocket.


NASA wants a nuclear reactor on the moon by 2030


“I’m a little confused about the double crater phenomenon. But I’m in no way an expert on high-velocity impacts, other than knowing that they can have some very strange results. In any case, I’m very happy that LRO people were able to track this down,” he said.

“I can’t say that the double crater proves things one way or the other,” he said The registry. “This part is a head scratcher. I don’t think that will tell us anything about whether it’s the Chang’e 5-T1 booster. We basically nailed this from other information. And the selenologist, who knows a lot more about cratering than I do, could come up with a very different reason for how a perfectly normal piece of rocket hardware could create twin craters.

Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, denied that the chunk of space debris came from the rocket that launched the Chang’e 5 spacecraft in 2020. “According to China’s monitoring, this is the upper stage of the Chang’e-5 mission. The rocket fell safely through Earth’s atmosphere and was completely burned,” he said earlier in a statement.

But this rocket isn’t the same one astronomers think hit the moon. Gray believes it came from another vehicle, one that launched the Chang’e 5-T1 spacecraft in 2014. His predictions of where the object might hit the moon were off by a few kilometers. “The actual location of the impact was uncertain by about a dozen kilometers, mainly because our last observations were made about four weeks before the impact,” he said.

“The problem was that spacecraft and space junk are gently pushed by sunlight, in a way that depends on how the objects are oriented, as they tumble over each other the object about a dozen kilometers one way or the other, in a bad way.” specified direction. It’s a bit like predicting where an empty garbage bag will fly in a storm. You know it’s blown downwind, but not exactly where it’s going. will go.” ®

https://www.theregister.com/2022/06/25/chinese_rocket_moon_crash_pic/ Whatever hit the moon in March left a double crater • The Register

Chrissy Callahan

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