NASA took pictures of the crash site of a mysterious rocket that crashed into the moon in March and the unidentified spacecraft left behind a strange double crater that stunned scientists.
Photographs of the crash site were taken on May 25 by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and Release June 24th. The photos show that the pathway debris (the source of which is still being contested) somehow punched out two overlapping craters when it broke into the distance. The moon Traveling at a speed of about 5,770 miles (9,290 km / h).
Unexpected dual craters add an extra layer of strangeness to a mystery that has confused space observers From the month of January, When Bill Gray, a U.S. astronomer and software developer who tracks objects near Earth, predicted that a piece of space debris would hit a distant part of the moon in a few months, Live Science previously reported. When Gray first saw the wreckage, I suggested it was the second phase of a Falcon X rocket launched in 2015 by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. But later observation and analysis of orbital data indicates that the object China’s Chang’e has passed the top stage of the 5-T1 rocketIn spacecraft (Named after the Chinese moon goddess) Which was launched in 2014. Chinese officials, however, disagree, claiming that the top layer of the rocket was burned Of the earth Atmosphere years ago.
To date, at least 47 NASA rocket bodies have crashed on the moon, according to the report Arizona State UniversityBut “the double crater was unexpected,” NASA said Wrote in a statement. “No other rocket body impact on the moon has created a double crater.”
Although scientists were unable to observe the moment of direct impact, experts predicted that the phase of the canceled rocket hit the lunar surface in the Hertzsprung crater away from the moon on March 4 at 7:25 EST (12:25 GMT). Observations from the LRO show two indentations on the lunar surface – the eastern hole measuring 59 feet (18 meters) wide, while the western hole measuring across 52.5 feet (16 meters). If NASA’s LRO was positioned to capture images of the impact, it would probably have recorded an ice of lunar dust hundreds of miles high.
Scientists are still speculating that two holes may be formed. One possibility is that the holes were formed by a piece of debris with two large masses at each end – although this view would be unusual, NASA representatives said.
“Usually a spent rocket concentrates the mass at the motor end; the rest of the rocket stage consists mainly of an empty fuel tank,” according to the statement.
Is it really the booster of Chang’e 5-T1?
Since the rocket booster is likely to be completely detached from the impact, it is uncertain whether investigating the holes will yield any major clues about its controversial source. But some astronomers think they have already discovered most of the mysteries. Gray Wrote on his blog Immediately after the pictures were released, the object was identified as “Chang’i 5-T1 Booster.”
“I’m pretty sure it couldn’t be anything else,” Gray told Live Science. “At the moment, we rarely get anything for sure.”
Gray made his first prediction that the controversial wreck would collide with the moon in March 2015 after it was seen falling into space. The object (temporarily assigned the name WE0913A) was first spotted by the Catalina Sky Survey, an array of telescopes near Tucson, Arizona that scans for dangerous asteroids in our cosmic surroundings that could hit Earth. However, WE0913A was not orbiting The sunSuch as Asteroids Would be, but instead the earth was orbiting. Gray suspected that the object was man-made.
After initially mistakenly identifying the mystery debris as the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, Gray went back to the data and discovered that another spacecraft had a close resemblance to the trajectory of the wreckage bound to the moon: the upper layer of China’s Chang’e 5T1 mission, which sent a test capsule to the moon Launched in October 2014 as part of the initial mission.
Chinese Foreign Ministry officials have denied that the space debris is theirs, insisting that the Chang’e 5 rocket had already burned when it returned to Earth in 2014. But U.S. experts have challenged the claim, suggesting that Chinese officials could mix the 2014 rocket. With a similarly designated rocket from a 2020 mission, and the previous one hit the moon. March 1, U.S. Department of Defense Space Command, which tracks space junk in low-Earth orbit, Has issued a statement Says China’s 2014 rocket never orbited.
Gray believes that his orbital data, which is a near-perfect match of the initial orbit of the Chinese rocket, is final.
“This is the orbit that takes a terrifying lunar mission; its trend means that, in the past, it passed over China; it was moving eastward the way Chinese lunar missions do; Rocket minutes, ”Gray says.
An amateur radio satellite (or “cubesat”) was attached to the Chang’e 5-T1 for the first 19 days of its flight, and the trajectory data returned from that satellite matched the current trajectory of the wreckage of the rocket, according to Gray. Others have also identified important sources that support Gray’s conclusion; The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies Gray has confirmed orbital data analysis, and a team from the University of Arizona has identified the rocket as part of the Chang’e 5-T1 mission by analyzing the paint spectrum reflected by paint in the wreckage. .
Although this is the first piece of space debris to inadvertently collide with the moon, this is not the first time that a man-made satellite has crashed there. In 2009, NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite was deliberately launched at a speed of 5,600 miles (9,000 km / h) at the Moon’s South Pole, enabling scientists to detect the chemical signature of water ice. NASA’s Apollo program has disposed of Saturn V rockets by launching them to the moon.
Gray said the confusion surrounding the identity of the object highlights a real need for astronauts and private companies to develop better methods for tracking deep space rockets (which would prevent such objects from being mistaken for Earth-threatening asteroids). ).
“From my selfish point of view, it will help us track asteroids better,” Gray said. “The care given to low-Earth orbiting satellites has not been applied to people in high-Earth orbits because people thought it didn’t really matter. I hope the United States is now considering returning to the moon and other countries. Sending that could change that attitude. “
Originally published in Live Science.