Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) – NASA’s orbiting eye in the sky moon – Found where the mysterious rocket booster crashed on the far side of the Moon on March 4, 2022.
LRO images taken on May 25 revealed not just a single crater, but a double crater formed by the impact of the rocket, revealing a new mystery for astronomers to solve.
Why double crater? A little unusual though – none Apollo S-IVBs It created double craters that hit the Moon—not impossible to create them, especially when an object hits them at a low angle. But here it doesn’t look like that.
The astronomer Bill Gray, who first discovered the object and predicted the end of the month in January, explains that the booster “comes at about 15 degrees from the vertical. So that’s not the explanation.”
The impact area consists of an 18-metre-wide eastern crater superimposed on the 16-metre-wide western crater. Mark Robinson, Principal Investigator of the LRO Camera team, suggests that this double crater formation may have been caused by an object of different, massive masses at either end.
“Typically, the mass of a spent rocket is concentrated at the engine end; the remainder of the rocket stage consists mainly of an empty fuel tank. Since the origin of the rocket body remains obscure, the dual nature of the crater may help demonstrate its identity,” said.
Long story. The unidentified rocket first caught the attention of astronomers earlier this year when it was identified as a SpaceX upper stage that launched NASA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) to the Sun-Earth L1 Lagrange Point in 2015.
Gray, who designed software that monitors space debris, was alerted to the object when his software crashed. Told this Washington Post On January 26, “my software complained that it couldn’t reflect the trajectory after March 4, and was unable to do so because the rocket crashed into the Moon.”
Gray spread the word, and the story went viral in late January—but a few weeks later he got an email from Jon Giorgini at the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL).
Giorgini cautioned that DSCOVR’s orbit should not take the booster anywhere near the Moon. In an effort to reconcile conflicting trends, Gray began examining his data, which he discovered in 2015 misidentified the DSCOVR booster.
After all, SpaceX wasn’t to blame.. But there was definitely an object thrown towards the Moon. So what was it?
A bit of detective work led Gray to determine that this was actually the upper stage of China’s 5-T1 mission to Chang’e. (By the way, China recently announced that it will pursue this exemplary extradition mandate more assertively. Mars sample return project this ten years later).
Jonathan McDowell presented some confirmatory evidence that seemed to support this new theory for the identity of the object.
Days later, however, the Chinese Foreign Minister claimed that it wasn’t their impetus: it had sprung out of orbit and crashed into the ocean shortly after launch.
As it stands now, Gray is convinced it was the Change 5-T1 booster that hit the Moon, and he argues that the Secretary of State made an honest mistake and confused Chang’e 5-T1 with the similarly named Chang’e 5 (which booster did that). it really sinks into the ocean).
As for the new double crater on the Moon, the fact that the LRO team was able to locate the impact site so quickly is an impressive feat in itself. It was discovered just months after the collision, with a little help from Gray and JPL, who independently narrowed the search area to several dozen kilometers.
For comparison, finding the Apollo 16 S-IVB impact site required more than six years of careful research.