NASA photographed the crash site of the mysterious rocket that crashed into the far side of the moon in March, and the unidentified spacecraft left 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 released The photos show that the headstrong debris (whose origins are still disputed) somehow pierced two overlapping craters when it slammed into the farthest corner of the earth. moon It travels at roughly 5,770 mph (9,290 km/h).
Unexpected binary craters add an extra layer of weirdness to a mystery that has puzzled space observers. since the stoveAs Live Science previously reported, Bill Gray, a US astronomer and software developer that tracks near-Earth objects, predicts that orbiting space junk will hit the far side of the moon in a few months. When Gray first saw the wreckage, he suggested it was the second stage of a Falcon X rocket launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX in 2015. But later observations and analysis of orbital data implied that the object was debris. Spent the upper stage of China’s Chang’e 5-T1 rocketspacecraft (Named after the Chinese moon goddess) It was launched in 2014. However, Chinese officials disagreed, claiming that the upper stage of this rocket burned down during the fire. of the world atmosphere years ago.
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To date, at least 47 NASA rocket bodies have hit the moon. Arizona State Universitybut “double crater was unexpected”, NASA wrote in a statement. “No other rocket body impacts have produced double craters on the Moon.”
While scientists were not able to directly observe the impact, experts speculated that the launched rocket stage crashed into the lunar surface at 7:25 EST (12:25 GMT) on March 4 in Hertzsprung crater on the far side of the moon. Observations from the LRO show two indentations in the lunar surface – the eastern crater is 18 feet wide, and the western crater is 52.5 feet (16 m) wide. Had NASA’s LRO been positioned to capture images of the impact, it would likely document the eruption of a lunar dust cloud hundreds of kilometers high.
Scientists are still hypothesizing what might have created the two craters. One possibility is that the craters were formed by a piece of debris with two massive masses at either end — although this scenario is unusual, NASA representatives said.
“Typically, the mass of a used rocket is concentrated at the engine end; the remainder of the rocket stage consists essentially of an empty fuel tank,” according to the statement.
Is it really Chang’e 5-T1’s booster?
Since the rocket booster is likely to have completely disintegrated at the time of impact, it’s unclear whether exploration of the craters will provide any major clues to its controversial origin. But some astronomers think they’ve already solved most of the mystery. Grey wrote on his blog Shortly after the images were released, it was stated that the object was “precisely identified as the Chang’e 5-T1 booster.”
“I’m pretty convinced it couldn’t have been anything else,” Gray told Live Science. “At this point, we rarely get anything so precise.”
Gray made his first prediction that the controversial debris would collide with the moon after it was seen rolling through space in March 2015. The object (tentatively named WE0913A) was first spotted by the Catalina Sky Survey, a series of telescopes near Tucson. Arizona scanning our cosmic neighborhood for dangerous asteroids that could hit Earth. However, WE0913A was not in orbit. sunas asteroid would be, but instead it was in Earth orbit. Gray suspected that the object was man-made.
After initially misidentifying the mysterious junk as a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, Gray turned to the data to find that another spacecraft was close to the orbit of the lunar-bound debris: the upper stage of China’s Chang’e 5-T1 mission to the Moon. It was launched in October 2014 as part of a preliminary mission to send a test capsule.
Chinese foreign ministry officials denied that the space junk belonged to them, insisting that the Chang’e 5 rocket had already burned up on its return journey to Earth in 2014. However, US experts disputed this claim, arguing that Chinese officials may have been confusing the 2014 rocket. From the 2020 mission with a similarly designated rocket and that the first one hit the moon. On March 1, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Space Command, monitoring space junk in low Earth orbit, published a statement He says China’s 2014 rocket never left orbit.
Gray believes the orbital data, which is an almost perfect match with the initial trajectory of the Chinese rocket, are precise.
“In the orbit many lunar missions take, its tilt means it’s headed for China in the past, heading east as Chinese lunar missions have done, and the estimated launch time is reduced to 20 minutes from the Chang’e 5-T1 rocket,” Gray said.
According to Gray, an amateur radio satellite (or “cubesat”) was attached to Chang’e 5-T1 for the first 19 days of its flight, and the orbital data returned from that satellite matches the rocket debris’s current trajectory perfectly. . Others have identified important clues that support Gray’s conclusion; NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies confirmed the analysis of Gray’s orbital data, and a University of Arizona team identified the rocket as part of the Chang’e 5-T1 mission by analyzing the light spectrum reflected by the paint on the falling debris. .
While this is the first space junk to inadvertently collide with the moon, it’s not the first time a man-made satellite has crashed there. In 2009, NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Detection Satellite was deliberately fired at the moon’s south pole at 5,600 mph (9,000 km/h), releasing a plume that allowed scientists to detect chemical signatures of water ice. NASA also destroyed the Apollo program Saturn V rockets by launching them to the moon.
The confusion surrounding the object’s identity highlights a real need for space travel 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 being confused with Earth-threatening asteroids), Gray said. . .
“From my selfish point of view, it helps us track asteroids better,” Gray said. “The care given to low-Earth orbit satellites didn’t apply to those in high Earth orbits because people thought it didn’t really matter. I hope the United States is now considering going back to the moon and other countries. If you send something there, that attitude might change.”
Originally published on Live Science.
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